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NICS Background Check

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December 10, 2009 Return to News & Events

NICS - National Instant Criminal Background Check System

What an NICS Background Check is and related law like the Brady Act

An NICS background check is a search of the national instant criminal background check system maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for the purposes of screening potential firearms and explosives purchasers.  In the United States the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (Brady Act) of 1993 mandates that anyone looking to buy firearms or explosives in the USA now have to have a NICS background check performed on them before being allowed to complete their purchase.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is a point of sale system used wherever firearms or explosives are sold in the USA.  An NICS background check is initiated by a seller through an automated electronic system or by telephone.   The request then goes to the FBI who then determines if the applicant should be approved or denied purchase of the firearm(s) or explosives being sought.   The NICS uses the criteria outlined in the Gun Control Act of 1968 to determine if a potential buyer is allowed to purchase firearms or explosives.  In addition to criminal records, the NICS index search checks for other disqualifiers that would prohibit someone from owning a gun.  The law requires Federal Firearms License holders (FFLs) to get the green light from running an NICS background check before transferring a firearm.  If the NICS background check comes back negative then the seller has to deny sale of the firearm to the buyer.   

The national instant criminal background check system was officially launched by the FBI on November 30, 1998.  It was then immediately used by all the Federal Firearms Licensees, who since then have been able to accept or deny gun purchase requests instantly.  In certain cases where definitive denial records are not present, but significant red flags are raised, it could go into examination in which case the results would not be instant.   Prior to completing a firearms sale, merchants/cashiers either call in an NICS background check to the FBI/designated agency or perform the request online  to get confirmation on whether or not their customer has a criminal record or other item that would make them ineligible to complete the purchase and transfer of gun(s) or explosives.

NICS background checks are a necessary step in the sale of firearms and explosives.  It helps prevent criminals, illegal aliens and terrorists from gaining possession of deadly weapons that could compromise the safety of unarmed civilians.

* The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is located at the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and has made over 100 million NICS background checks in the last decade, leading to more than 700,000 denials.  It also ensures the timely transfer of firearms to eligible gun buyers. does not offer the NICS, but does offer the following services:

To purchase a copy of your FBI files please contact them at the following address and phone number:
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Criminal Justice Information Services Division
Attention: Correspondence Group, Module D-2
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306
Telephone Number: (304) 625-3878

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