Understanding the National Instant Criminal Background Check System
Understanding the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (in 1 hour or less) Becki Goggins Director of Law and Policy, SEARCH National Association for Justice Information Systems 2016 Annual Conference November 2, 2016 What is NICS? National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 (Brady Act) Launched by the FBI on November 30, 1998 through its Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division
What is a NICS Check? How checks are performed Checks are name/descriptive data-based ATF Form 4473 Telephone v. E-Check Allowable uses of NICS System Firearm transfers by Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) Firearm-related permits
Explosive-related permit or license ATF inquiries for Gun Control Act or National Firearms Act Disposition of Firearms Point of Contact v. Non-POC States 13 Full POC States - CA, CO, CT, FL, HI, IL, NV, NJ, OR, PA, TN, UT, VA 7 Partial POC States 4 contact state for handgun sales and FBI for long gun - MD, NH, WA, WI 3 contact state for handgun permits and FBI for long guns - IA, NE, NC 36 states and territories rely on FBI NICS Section for all firearms background checks 25 ATF-Qualified Alternate Permit States permits in lieu of NICS background check for the duration of the permit
Point of Contact States Where are records located? Interstate Identification Index (III) National Crime Information Center (NCIC) State Warrants File
State Protection Orders NICS Index NICS Query Point of Contact (POC) State Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Courts
Other Databases Where are records located? Interstate Identification Index (III) National Crime Information Center (NCIC) NICS Index
NICS Query Non-POC State Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Interstate Identification Index (III) Accesses criminal history records from all 50 states States maintain these records Contains most common disqualifier (felony convictions) Contains information about misdemeanors (including misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence) May contain dispositions related to mental health adjudication to include not guilty by reason of
insanity National Crime Information Center (NCIC) The NICS searches the following NCIC files: Wanted Persons Protection Orders Immigration Violators Protective Interest File Foreign Fugitive National Sex Offender Registry File Known or Suspected Terrorist File Violent Person National Crime Information Center (NCIC)-NICS Denied Transaction File NICS Denied Transaction File:
NICS denied transactions available on NCIC via a QND query Rolling six months work of data Soon to include all NICS denied data available to the NICS for all purposes (firearm transfer, firearmrelated permits, disposition of firearms, etc.) Also, soon to be available on NCIC via a QW query NICS Index Most misunderstood database Certain records are only available through the NICS Index Others are most appropriately placed in III or NCIC Contains over 14 million active records in 11 files related to persons who are predetermined to have firearms prohibitions NICS Index Files
Convicted of crime punishable by a term of imprisonment for over one year or a misdemeanor punishable by a term of imprisonment for over two years Fugitive from justice (warrants) Unlawful user of or addicted to controlled substance Adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution* Is illegally or unlawfully in the United States Dishonorable discharges Renounced U.S. citizenship* Protection orders for intimate partners or children of intimate partners Conviction for certain misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence Under indictment for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year State prohibitors* *May only be available in NICS Index ICE
Identifies persons in United States illegally or unlawfully Only searched for non-U.S. citizens attempting to receive firearms in the U.S. Recent Success Strategies for Increasing Records Available to the NICS SEARCH/NCSC Research Bulletins Making Mental Health Records Available for NICS Checks Increased focus after Virginia Tech shooting tragedy in 2007 State automation strategies Automating how criminal dispositions are sent to III and the NICS Index Automating the transfer of mental health information from
the courts, through the criminal history repository, to the NICS Index Establishing connectivity from mental health databases (e.g., public mental health hospitals, state health agency) where records are held through the criminal history repository, to the NICS index Automating all mental health record reporting through a single central database Success Strategy # 1 Problem: Lack of central repository for involuntary mental health commitments Solution: Automated NICS Record Transmission System Allows courts and mental health facilities to electronically transfer records to the NICS Index Eliminates need for duplicate data entry by
creating submission specifications for contributing entities Uses submission specification service to impose quality control standards on submissions Success Strategy #2 Problems Local courts manually recorded involuntary commitments, but this information was not available to Administrative Office of Courts (AOC) and/or criminal history repository No centralized view to see if records were reported at the federal level Solution: Civil Commitment Automated Tracking System Create statewide web application to capture commitments at the local level Ensure that NICS data elements are captured and transferred
automatically Mental Health Records in the NICS Index 2015 4,250,388 2014 3,774,307 2013 3,260,730 2012
2005 2005 648,120 518,499 298,571 234,628 First year of NARIP Funds Making Protection Order Information Available for NICS Checks Challenges to including protection orders in NCIC 24/7 hit confirmation NCIC requirement Lack of mandatory information from the courts Courts often cannot submit directly to the NICS Index
Must be able to verify that protection order has been served States have created state protection order files as an alternative to entering into NCIC Less strict requirements Not available nationally Success Strategy # 1 Problem: Courts enter protection orders into their Electronic Records Management Systems (ERMS), but cannot respond to 24/7 hit confirmations Solution: Allow law enforcement agencies to access court documents Take advantage of NCIC policy for agencies using ERMS systems View of scanned PDF documents Access to source RMS data
Synchronization of records Make electronic version of protection orders available to law enforcement 2/47 Success Strategy # 2 Problem: Non-unified court system makes it difficult to locate domestic violence protection orders Solution: Create single domestic violence registry database Allow courts to submit electronically via existing ERMS or via web portal interface Automatically submit records to NCIC, NICS DV file or NICS state prohibitor file based on state/local policies Protection orders State prohibitors
Deploy direct inquiry functionality for non-court agency staff (e.g. FBI NICS staff) in the protection order registry Protection Order Records Available for Firearms Background Checks 2,500,000 2,143,002 2,000,000 1,868,125 1,570,151 1,500,000 1,000,000
1,499,098 1,404,205 1,395,438 966,027 784,131 500,000 State Protection Order Registries NCIC Protection Orders in the NICS Index 70,000 61,393
Making Fugitives from Justice Records Available for NICS Checks Reasons many warrants are not entered into NCIC Workload associated with NCIC record validation requirements Hit-confirmation requirements Warrant from the court lacks necessary information (data elements) to meet NCIC requirements State systems allow multiple warrant for a single person Extradition and transportation expenses Fluid nature of warrant records Success Strategy #1 eWarrants System can enforce entry of mandatory data elements
for NCIC System can automatically route warrants to NCIC or NICS depending on local policies Automates exchange of warrants in state and national files Allows agencies to interact via a website with a centralized eWarrants tracking system, providing information and tracking the progress of a warrant as it moves through the approval and service process Warrant and Wanted Person File Record Counts 9,000,000 8,160,267 8,000,000
2015 Illegal Controlled Substance Use Records Available in III Arrests for use or possession of a controlled substance within the past year Multiple arrests for use or possession of a controlled substance within the past five (5) years if the most recent arrest occurred within the past year Convictions for use or possession of a controlled substance within the past year (regardless of offense type) Convictions for possession of drug paraphernalia within the past year Illegal Controlled Substance Use
Records Available in the NICS Index Persons who test positive for use of a controlled substance within the past year Persons who admit to the use of a controlled substance within the past year Includes persons in states where recreational or medical marijuana use is considered legal Persons in possession of a medical marijuana card to include one year after the expiration States Submitting Illegal Drug Use Records to the NICS Index > 1,000 records 4 states, DC Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), DC Pretrial Services Agency (PSA) 100-1000 records 3 states
10-99 records 12 states 1-9 records 4 states Zero records 27 states Challenges to Submitting Illegal Drug Use Records Lack of centralized repository for failed drug tests Problem solving courts State laws for medical and recreational marijuana Success Strategy # 1 Identify high volume drug screening facility that conducts drug tests for pretrial and probation clients All results are entered in centralized RMS as a part of the regular business process Positive drug screens are placed in a queue and submitted to NICS via batch process
NICS submissions are automatically set to expire in one year Success Strategy # 2 Include information about NICS prohibitors in statecertified courses for law enforcement Include block on all NICS prohibitors Ensure that illegal drug use prohibitions are discussed in detail including information about medical marijuana Provide Officers with multiple ways to enter illegal drug use records Faxing form to FBI NICS Section State Law Enforcement Information Network (LIEN) Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (LEEP) Unlawful Drug Use Records in the NICS Index 30,000
26,194 25,000 20,000 15,000 10,000 5,000 - 5,601 2008 2016 How do we pay for it? Funding Opportunities
Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP) NICS Act Record Improvement Program (NARIP) NCHIP Awards $40.0 $34.2 $35.0 $30.0 $27.5 $25.0 $20.0 $15.0
$11.1 $8.8 $10.0 $6.2 $5.0 $- 2011 2012 2013 BJS Funding in Millions 2014
$5.0 $- 2011 2012 2013 BJS Funding in Millions 2014 2015
Want to learn more about strategies for increasing records available in the NICS? Research briefs BJS, SEARCH and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) Current Publications Mental Health Records https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bjs/grants/249793.pdf Protection Orders https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bjs/grants/249864.pdf More publications coming soon Check out www.search.org Thank You! Please refer questions to: Becki Goggins
[email protected] 334.201.3001 SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics | search.org
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