It is not a secret that retailers and distributors have seen a surge in sales for firearms and ammunition in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Uncertainty causes people to prepare for worst-case situations. And fortunately, in the United States, the citizenry has the right to purchase arms to defend themselves against enemies of all sorts. There are silver linings to these life-changing events we find ourselves all thrust into – and the realization that as individuals we are responsible for our own safety and security is one of those highlights. The latest data from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) confirms what most of also already believed – Americans are buying more guns than ever before. Record NICS checks were recorded for the month of March, shattering the previous record in December of 2015 by 400K.
Will this month extend the record trend? Stay tuned.
Located at the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division in Clarksburg, West Virginia, the NICS Section processes background checks for the FFLs in those states that have declined to serve as POCs for the NICS. The FFLs conducting business in these states will contact the NICS either by telephone via the NCCC, or electronically by the NICS E-Check via the Internet. The FFLs will provide the descriptive information requested on the ATF Form 4473, which is required by law to be completed and signed by every prospective firearm transferee. The FFL will receive a response that the transfer may proceed or is delayed.
After initiating a firearm background check via the NCCC, if no matching records are returned by any of the databases, the transaction is automatically proceeded. If the NICS returns a match of the prospective firearm transferee’s descriptive information to that of record information located in any of the databases, the FFL is advised that the transaction is delayed. While the FFL is still on the telephone, the call is placed on hold and transferred to the NICS Section in Clarksburg, West Virginia, for a quick review and evaluation by a NICS legal instruments examiner (NICS examiner). If the record information returned by the NICS presents a valid match to the descriptive information of the prospective firearm transferee, the NICS examiners, who have access to protected information (as opposed to NCCC personnel who do not have such access) review the information to determine if state and/or federal firearm prohibitive criteria exists. If the information matched by the NICS is not a valid match or no prohibitive criteria exists, the NICS examiner will advise the FFL they may PROCEED with the firearm transaction. The FFL must record the NICS Transaction Number (NTN) on line 21b of the ATF Form 4473 and retain the form for auditing purposes.
The FFLs have the following three methods of performing background checks depending upon the state in which the FFL is conducting business:
1. In states where the state government has agreed to serve as the POC for the system, the FFLs contact the NICS through the state POC for all firearm transfers. The state POC conducts the NICS check and determines whether or not the transfer would violate state or federal law.
2. In states where the state government has declined to serve as a POC, the FFLs initiate a NICS background check by contacting the NCCC for all firearm transfers. The FBI conducts the NICS check and determines whether or not the transfer would violate state or federal law.
3. Finally, in states where the state government has agreed to serve as a POC for handgun purchases but not for long gun purchases, the FFLs contact the NICS through the designated state POC for handgun transfers and the NICS Section for long gun transfers.
Each state decides whether the FFLs in its state call a state POC or the FBI to initiate firearm background checks.