The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) searches state criminal history records to prevent gun sales to ineligible persons. GAO found that state firearm laws and procedures may affect how these records are used by NICS. Each of the six states GAO surveyed had some mechanism by which persons with criminal convictions could have their rights to own a firearm restored. The six states typically require a waiting period before someone can apply for relief, and some criminal convictions make a person ineligible for restoration. In 26 states, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has determined that a concealed carry permit may exempt permit holders from an NICS background check when they are buying a firearm. This situation underscores the need to carefully screen applications and monitor permit holders to ensure their eligibility to own firearms. The six states used various approaches to make it easier to identify individuals convicted of domestic violence. Despite these efforts, NICS failed to detect more than 2,800 persons convicted of domestic violence who bought firearms during the first three years the system was in operation.
Matter for Congressional Consideration
|To reduce the number of NICS firearm-retrieval actions and improve the ability of NICS to prevent domestic violence offenders from purchasing firearms, Congress may wish to consider amending the Brady Act to allow more than three business days to complete unresolved NICS background checks before firearms sales are allowed to proceed.||During the 107th and 108th Congresses, various NICS-related gun control bills, including background checks at gun shows, retention of firearms background check records, and access to immigration and mental health records, were debated in the House and Senate. However, no legislation was enacted to address this recommendation and none is expected. In contrast, a provision of the 2004 Justice Appropriations Act requires the destruction of NICS records of approved firearms purchases within 24 hours, which actually makes it more difficult to identify prohibited purchasers or corrupt firearms dealers and reduce the number of firearm-retrieval actions.|
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Justice||1. To minimize the possibility of ineligible person using revoked concealed carry permits to purchase firearms without a NICS background check, the Attorney General should consider developing regulations requiring states to implement point-of-purchase verification procedures, whereby the current validity of concealed carry permits must be verified by licensed gun dealers before transferring firearms to permit holders.|