See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on a prospective purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

Delaware is not a point of contact state for firearm purchaser background checks. In Delaware, all firearms transfers by licensed dealers are processed directly through the FBI, which enforces the federal purchaser prohibitions referenced above.1 Delaware law provides that a licensed firearms dealer may not sell, transfer or deliver any firearm to another unlicensed person until the dealer has conducted a background check.2 Generally, the transfer may only be completed if the licensed dealer is informed by the FBI NICS Section that it may “proceed,” however, if 25 days elapse from the time the background check is requested by the licensed dealer, and the FBI still has not issued a denial, then the transfer may proceed.3 Delaware requires unlicensed sellers to request a licensed dealer to facilitate a firearms transaction, including conducting a background check, prior to transferring a firearm to another unlicensed person.4

Delaware also requires the following agencies or entities to submit to the NICS system clinical mental health and other information to comply with federal laws relating to the purchase or transfer of firearms:

  • The Delaware Psychiatric Center and any other hospital as defined in Del. Code Ann. tit. 16, § 5001(4). Such information shall include only names and other nonclinical identifying information of persons so committed;5
  • Hospitals and residential centers;6
  • Institutions to which individuals are committed for criminal convictions, declarations of not guilty by reason of mental illness, or declarations of incompetency to stand trial for criminal offenses, or for involuntarily commitments for mental illness;7 and
  • The Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families.8
Notes
  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map (last visited Oct. 3, 2014). ⤴︎
  2. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 1448A(a), (g). ⤴︎
  3. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 1448A(b). ⤴︎
  4. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 1448B(a). ⤴︎
  5. Del. Code Ann. tit. 16, § 5161(b)(14). ⤴︎
  6. Del. Code Ann. tit. 16, § 5161(b)(13)(g). ⤴︎
  7. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 8509 ⤴︎
  8. Del. Code Ann. tit. 29, § 9017(c). ⤴︎