Background Checks in Utah

Posted on January 1, 2012

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 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 federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

Utah is a point of contact state for NICS.1 Utah law provides that, before transferring a firearm, all firearm dealers in Utah must contact the Criminal Investigations and Technical Services Division of the Department of Public Safety (more commonly known as the Bureau of Criminal Identification, or BCI), which conducts the background check referenced above.2

The dealer must require an individual receiving a firearm to present one form of government-issued photo identification. The individual must consent in writing to the background check and provide personal information on a form provided by BCI. The dealer must then contact BCI by telephone or electronic means.3 BCI is required to review criminal history files, including juvenile court records, to determine if the individual is prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm by state or federal law, prior to approving a firearm transfer.4 The dealer may not transfer the firearm until receiving approval from BCI.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, Utah concealed handgun license holders are exempt from the federal background check requirement when purchasing a firearm.6 Utah law also exempts concealed handgun license holders from the state provision requiring a background check.7 (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.)

Firearms transfers by private sellers (sellers who are not licensed as firearms dealers) are not subject to background checks in Utah. See our Private Sales policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

  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 April 10, 2012). []
  2. See Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-526. []
  3. Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-526. []
  4. Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-526. []
  5. Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-526. []
  6. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, U.S. Department of Justice, Brady Law: Permanent Brady Permit Chart (Aug. 26, 2011), at: http://www.atf.gov/firearms/brady-law/permit-chart.html. []
  7. Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-526(13). []