State Background Checks for Guns

Background Checks in Virginia

Posted on Monday, May 18th, 2015

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.)

In Virginia, all firearms transfers by licensed dealers are processed directly through the Department of State Police (“DSP”) which enforces the federal purchaser prohibitions referenced above.1

Before transferring a firearm from his or her inventory, a licensed dealer must:

  • Require a prospective purchaser to present one piece of government issued photo-identification, and a separate documentation of residence;
  • Obtain the purchaser’s written consent to a background check and the other information on a consent form;
  • Request criminal history record information regarding the purchaser by a telephone call to or other communication authorized by DSP; and
  • Provide DSP with the name, birth date, gender, race, citizenship, and social security and/or any other identification number of the purchaser, and the number of firearms by category intended to be transferred.2

The DSP must generally process each dealer’s background check request “during the dealer’s call [to the DSP], or by return call without delay.”3 Virginia law provides that most background checks must be processed by the end of the following business day, or the dealer is free to complete the transfer.4 A Virginia administrative regulation requires a dealer who processes a transfer because he or she has not received a response from the DSP by the end of the dealer’s next business day, to notify DSP of the transfer by telephone.5

See the Retention of Sales / Background Check Records in Virginia for more information.

Virginia does not require private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. See our Private Sales policy summary for more information.

  1. Bureau of Justice Statistics Survey of State Procedures Related to Firearm Sales, 2005 (November 2006) and Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:2. []
  2. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:2(B)(1). []
  3. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:2(B)(2). []
  4. Id. []
  5. 19 Va. Admin. Code § 30-100-10(A). Non-residents seeking to purchase a handgun are treated differently, and the DSP is allowed up to 10 days to process background checks in those situations. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:2(C). See 6 Va. Admin. Code §§ 20-130-10—20-130-100, and 19 Va. Admin. Code §§ 30-100-10—30-100-110 for additional information regarding the procedures used to perform background checks in Virginia. []

Background Checks in Ohio

Posted on Monday, May 11th, 2015

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.)

Ohio is not a point of contact state for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Ohio has no law requiring firearms dealers to initiate background checks prior to transferring a firearm. As a result, in Ohio, firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly.1

Ohio does not require private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. See our Private Sales policy summary.

  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 May 11, 2015). []

Background Checks in Arizona

Posted on Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

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.)

Arizona is not a point of contact state for the NICS. Arizona has no law requiring firearms dealers to initiate background checks prior to transferring a firearm. As a result, in Arizona firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly.1

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.2 As a result, concealed weapon permit holders in Arizona are exempt from the federal background check requirement when purchasing a handgun.3 (Note, however, that people who have become prohibited from possessing firearms may continue to hold state permits to purchase or permit firearms if the state fails to remove these permits in a timely fashion.)

Arizona does not require private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. See Private Sales Policy Summary.

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 http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map. []
  2. Federal law exempts persons who have been issued state permits to purchase or possess firearms from background checks if those permits were issued: 1) within the previous five years in the state in which the transfer is to take place; and 2) after an authorized government official has conducted a background investigation, including a search of the NICS database, to verify that possession of a firearm would not be unlawful. 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(3), 27 C.F.R. § 478.102(d). []
  3. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, U.S. Department. of Justice, Brady Law: Permanent Brady Permit Chart at: https://www.atf.gov/content/firearms/firearms-industry/permanent-brady-permit-chart. []

Background Checks in Nebraska

Posted on Thursday, April 30th, 2015

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.)

Nebraska is a point of contact state for firearm purchaser background checks for handgun transfers only. In Nebraska, firearms dealers transferring handguns to non-federally licensed transferees must either:

  • Inspect photo identification and a valid handgun certificate or concealed handgun permit (which confirms the buyer is at least age 21 and has undergone a background check through the Nebraska State Patrol (“NSP”); or
  • Inspect photo identification from the potential buyer, obtain a consent form, and process a background check through the NSP’s instant check system.1

A firearms dealer transferring a long gun must contact the FBI, who performs a NICS check on the purchaser.2

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.3 As a result, handgun purchase certificate holders and concealed weapons permit holders in Nebraska are exempt from the federal background check requirement when purchasing a handgun.4 (Note, however, that people who have become prohibited from possessing firearms may continue to hold state permits to purchase or permit firearms if the state fails to remove these permits in a timely fashion.)

Nebraska law requires persons wishing to obtain handguns through private sellers (non-firearms dealers) to first obtain a handgun certificate or a concealed handgun permit, which requires a background check.5 Nebraska does not require private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a long gun. See our Private Sales policy summary.

  1. Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 69-2403, 69-2409, 69-2410, 69-2411, 69-2431. []
  2. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 69-2431.  See also, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Section Point of Contact States and Territories, at http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/nics/poclist.htm (last updated July 1, 2008). []
  3. Federal law exempts persons who have been issued state permits to purchase or possess firearms from background checks if those permits were issued: 1) within the previous five years in the state in which the transfer is to take place; and 2) after an authorized government official has conducted a background investigation, including a search of the NICS database, to verify that possession of a firearm would not be unlawful. 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(3), 27 C.F.R. § 478.102(d). []
  4. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, U.S. Department. of Justice, Brady Law: Permanent Brady Permit Chart (last updated Aug. 26, 2011), at: http://www.atf.gov/firearms/brady-law/permit-chart.html. []
  5. Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 69-2403, 69-2404, 69-2431. []

Background Checks in Wyoming

Posted on Thursday, April 30th, 2015

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.)

Wyoming is not a point of contact state for NICS and Wyoming has no law requiring firearms dealers to initiate background checks prior to transferring a firearm. In Wyoming, all firearms transfers by licensed dealers are processed directly through the FBI, which enforces the federal purchaser prohibitions referenced above.1

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, Wyoming concealed weapons permit holders are exempt from the federal background check requirement when purchasing a firearm.2 (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 (individuals other than licensed dealers) are not subject to background checks in Wyoming. See our Private Sales policy summary.

  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. []
  2. 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. []

Background Checks in Oklahoma

Posted on Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

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

Oklahoma is not a point of contact state for firearm purchaser background checks.1 In Oklahoma, firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly.

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

Oklahoma does not require private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. See our Private Sales policy summary.

  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. []

Background Checks in Vermont

Posted on Friday, February 20th, 2015

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.)

Vermont is not a point of contact state for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Vermont has no law requiring firearms dealers to initiate background checks prior to transferring a firearm. As a result, in Vermont firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly.1

Vermont does not require private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. See our Private Sales policy summary.

  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 Feb. 2, 2012). []

Background Checks in New York

Posted on Thursday, February 19th, 2015

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

New York is not a point of contact state for the NICS.  As a result, in New York, firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly.

Background Checks for Firearm Transfers

New York law requires that a NICS background check be completed by a licensed firearms dealer before the sale, exchange, or disposal of any firearm, unless the transaction is between members of an immediate family. Upon completion of the background check by the licensed dealer, the dealer must finalize a document that confirms that such a check was performed.  All dealers must maintain transaction records on their premises and the records must be open at all reasonable hours for inspection by law enforcement.  A dealer may charge a fee of up to $10.00 per transaction.  Such records will not be considered a public record under New York Public Officers Law.  Finally, any violations of these laws are punishable as a misdemeanor.1

Background Checks for Ammunition Transfers

Effective January 15, 2014, a seller of ammunition in New York cannot transfer ammunition to anyone other than a licensed firearms dealer unless the ammunition seller verifies the identity of the transferee by examining a valid state identification document (such as driver’s license) and contacts the statewide license and record database and provides the database with sufficient information to confirm that the transferee is eligible to possess ammunition.  If the transferee is eligible to possess ammunition, the database will provide the seller with a unique identification number that corresponds to the transfer.  This requirement will not apply if the background check cannot be completed because the system is not operational or cannot be accessed because of technical error.2

As of January 15, 2014, New York law establishes a statewide license and record database which is to be created and maintained by the Division of State Police.  Records of granted licenses must be periodically checked by the Division of Criminal Justice Services against criminal conviction, mental health, and all other records necessary to determine their continued accuracy and whether the person is still a valid license holder.  The Division of Criminal Justice Services must also check pending firearm license applications using the statewide database to determine whether a license may be granted.  All state agencies must cooperate in making their records available for such checks.3

See Retention of Sales & Background Check Records in New York for related information.

  1. N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law Art. 39-DDD § 898. []
  2. N.Y. Penal Law § 400.03(3), (5). []
  3. N.Y. Penal Law § 400.02. []

Background Checks in Connecticut

Posted on Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

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

Connecticut is a point-of-contact state for NICS. In Connecticut, all firearms transfers by licensed dealers are processed through the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (“DESPP”).1

In Connecticut, a person, firm or corporation who seeks to sell a long gun at retail or a handgun (whether a licensed dealer or private seller) must:

  • Have the transferee complete a written application and retain the application for at least 20 years or until he or she goes out of business;
  • Make the application available for inspection during normal business hours by law enforcement;
  • Transfer only to a transferee he or she knows personally or who presents appropriate identification (handguns only);
  • Obtain an authorization number from DESPP; and
  • Wait two weeks from the date of application before transferring the firearm (long guns only, until April 1, 2014).2

DESPP must make reasonable “effort,” including a search of NICS, to determine if the applicant is eligible to receive a firearm.3

Private (unlicensed) individuals may not purchase or receive a firearm unless such person holds a: 1) permit to carry a pistol or revolver; 2) eligibility certificate for a pistol or revolver; 3) permit to sell at retail a pistol or revolver; or 4) long gun eligibility certificate.  These permits are issued following a background check by DESPP on the applicant.4 See the Private Sales in Connecticut section.

Prior to the transfer of any firearm at a gun show, the transferee must undergo a background check.5 See the Gun Shows in Connecticut section for more information.

To obtain an ammunition certificate, allowing a person to purchase ammunition in Connecticut, a person must request this certificate from the DESPP commissioner.6 After conducting the criminal history records check of the person using only their name and date of birth, the commissioner must issue the ammunition certificate unless the person is ineligible for a long gun eligibility certificate.7

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

  1. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-36l(d)(1). See also 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 July 8, 2013). []
  2. Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 29-33(a), (c), 29-37a(d). []
  3. Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 29-33(c), 29-37a(d). []
  4. Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 29-28(b), 29-36f, 29-36g, 29-38g, 29-38h. []
  5. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-37g(c). []
  6. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-38l(a). []
  7. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-38l(b). []

Background Checks in Missouri

Posted on Friday, January 30th, 2015

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.)

Missouri is not a point of contact state for firearm purchaser background checks. In Missouri, all firearms transfers by licensed dealers are processed directly through the FBI, which enforces the federal purchaser prohibitions referenced above.1

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

Missouri does not require private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. See our Private Sales policy summary.

  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. []