National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)

NICS Form 4473
gub sale gun counter

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was mandated by the 1993 Brady Law. Operated by the FBI, the NICS was developed with the ATF and state and local law enforcement agencies. When a person tries to buy a firearm, an FFL, such as a gun shop owner or retailer, must contact the NICS electronically or by phone. The prospective buyer fills out the required ATF form, and the FFL relays that information to the NICS. The NICS staff then performs a background check on the buyer. That background check verifies the buyer does not have a criminal record or isn’t otherwise ineligible to purchase or own a firearm.

According to the FBI, the NICS provides full service to FFLs in 30 states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. It also offers partial service to seven states. The remaining 13 states perform their own checks through the NICS. Since 1998, more than 300 million checks have been completed.

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