Background Checks in Michigan

Posted on August 17, 2015

Federal law generally requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the 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.)

Michigan is a partial point-of-contact state for NICS. Background checks requested by licensed dealers are processed directly through the FBI, which enforces the federal purchaser prohibitions referenced above.1 If the seller of a handgun is not a federally licensed dealer, Michigan requires that the purchaser have either a valid handgun purchase license or a license to carry a concealed handgun2 Prospective handgun purchase licensees are subject to a background check as part of the licensing process for each purchase license—and thus for each handgun purchased—through the Michigan Department of State Police.3 Concealed handgun licensees only have to submit to a background check once every five years, at the time of renewal of their concealed carry license.4  Michigan enacted a law in 2015 to require concealed handgun licensing authorities to conduct background checks through the state’s law enforcement information network and the FBI’s NICS database.5

Federal law does not require dealers to conduct a background check if a firearm purchaser presents a state permit to purchase or possess firearms that meets certain conditions. As a result, Michigan handgun purchase license holders, and Michigan concealed pistol license holders with licenses issued on or after November 22, 2005, are exempt from the federal background check requirement when purchasing a firearm.6 (Note, however, that people who have become prohibited from possessing firearms may continue to hold state firearms licenses if the state fails to remove these licenses in a timely fashion.)

Long gun transfers by private sellers (non-firearms dealers) are not subject to background checks in Michigan.

See the Michigan Prohibited Persons Generally section for state-defined prohibited categories for the purchase and possession of guns.

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

  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at []
  2. Mich. Comp. Laws Serv. § 28.422a(1). A federally licensed firearms dealer is also exempt from the handgun purchase licensing requirement when purchasing and transporting handguns. Id. []
  3. Mich. Comp. Laws Serv. § 28.422(3), (5). []
  4. Mich. Comp. Laws Serv. §§ 28.425b(6), 28.425l(1)(stating that “a license to carry a concealed handgun is valid until the applicant’s date of birth that falls not less than 4 years or more than 5 years after the license is issued or renewed.”) []
  5. See 2015 Mich. S.B. 34 (amending Mich. Comp. Laws Serv. § 28.425b(6).) []
  6. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, U.S. Department of Justice, Brady Law: Permanent Brady Permit Chart (Jun. 10, 2014), at: []