State Background Checks for Guns

Background Checks in Pennsylvania

Posted on Monday, January 26th, 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.)

The Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”) serves as a state point of contact for NICS.1 Before a federally licensed importer, manufacturer or dealer transfers a firearm to an unlicensed person, the importer, manufacturer or dealer must request, by means of a telephone call, that PSP conduct a criminal history, juvenile delinquency history, and a mental health check.2 The licensee and the purchaser must provide such information as is necessary to accurately identify the purchaser, and the licensee must inspect photo identification of the potential purchaser or transferee.3 The licensee may not transfer the firearm until he or she receives a unique approval number from PSP for the purchase.4 The licensee must also collect from the buyer or transferee and forward to PSP a fee equivalent to the cost of conducting the background check, but not exceeding $2 per buyer or transferee, and issue a receipt containing the approval number to the purchaser or transferee.5

The dealer is prohibited from transferring the firearm if PSP has issued a “temporary delay” in order to investigate whether the person has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor that disqualifies the person from firearm possession.6

In addition, to sell a handgun or short-barreled rifle or shotgun, a dealer must:

  • Require the purchaser to complete a purchase application, which includes a statement that the purchaser is the actual buyer of the firearm. The dealer must retain a copy of the application for at least 20 years, mail the original to PSP within 14 days of the sale, and provide one copy to the purchaser;
  • Record the approval number on the application; and
  • If the purchaser passes the background check, deliver the firearm to the purchaser securely wrapped and unloaded.7

Upon receipt of a request for a criminal history, juvenile delinquency history and mental health record check of the potential purchaser or transferee, PSP must immediately during the licensee’s call or by return call review PSP’s criminal history, fingerprint records, juvenile delinquency and mental health records to determine if the potential purchaser or transferee is prohibited from receipt or possession of a firearm under federal or state law.8 PSP must then inform the licensee making the inquiry either that the potential purchase or transfer is prohibited, or provide the licensee with a unique approval number.9

According to the 2013 Firearms Annual Report of the Pennsylvania State Police, PSP searches the following databases as part of a background check prior to approving a firearm transfer:

  • NICS;
  • PSP’s criminal history records;
  • PSP’s juvenile delinquency records;
  • PSP’s mental health records;
  • PSP’s protection from abuse file (see the Pennsylvania Domestic Violence and Firearms section); and
  • PSP’s wanted/missing person file.10

Pennsylvania law allows PSP to issue a temporary delay of the approval of the purchase or transfer of a firearm if the criminal history or juvenile delinquency background check indicates a conviction for a misdemeanor that PSP cannot determine is or is not related to domestic violence.11 Federal and Pennsylvania law prohibit firearm possession by persons convicted of certain domestic violence misdemeanors. See the Pennsylvania Domestic Violence and Firearms section for further information. During the temporary delay, PSP must investigate the conviction with courts and law enforcement or related institutions as necessary to determine whether the misdemeanor conviction involved domestic violence.12 PSP must conduct the investigation as expeditiously as possible.13

Law enforcement files concerning any child adjudicated delinquent for any criminal activity that would prohibit him or her from firearm possession must be recorded in the registry of PSP for the limited purpose of firearm background checks.14

For information about the reporting of mental health information for use in firearm purchaser background checks, see the Pennsylvania Mental Health Reporting section.

Pennsylvania law requires PSP to maintain a telephone number, operational seven days a week between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., for purposes of responding to inquiries from licensees. PSP must also employ and train such personnel as necessary to expeditiously administer these requirements.15

A person who has been denied a firearms transfer based on a background check may seek review from PSP and/or appeal that decision to the Pennsylvania Attorney General. The person may further appeal an unfavorable decision by the Attorney General in court.16

Statistics regarding background checks for firearm transfers in Pennsylvania can be found in the 2013 Firearms Annual Report of the Pennsylvania State Police. For example, in 2013, more than 11,000 firearm transfers were denied due to prohibitions in the record of the person attempting to obtain a firearm.17

For a discussion of persons prohibited by federal or state law from possessing or purchasing a firearm, see the Pennsylvania Prohibited Purchasers Generally section.

In Pennsylvania, private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) may only sell a handgun to an unlicensed purchaser through a licensed importer, manufacturer, dealer or county sheriff’s office, who must initiate a background check as described above.18 Private sellers are not required to initiate background checks when transferring a long gun in Pennsylvania, although federal and state laws prohibiting certain persons from purchasing or possessing firearms still apply. See the Pennsylvania Private Sales section for more information.

See the section below for information regarding the Retention of Sales / Background Check Records in Pennsylvania.

  1. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 6111, 6111.1; see also Pennsylvania State Police, 2013 Firearms Annual Report (2014). []
  2. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(3). As of February 3, 2014 an online interface is also available for dealers to initiate a background check. See Pennsylvania State Police, 2013 Firearms Annual Report (2014). []
  3. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(2), (3). []
  4. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(4). []
  5. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(a), (b). []
  6. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(7). []
  7. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(a), (b); 37 Pa. Code § 33.111. For more information about the procedures that licensed dealers must follow to complete the sale, please see the administrative regulations of PSP available at 37 Pa. Code §§ 33.102-33.113. []
  8. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.1(b)(1)(i), (ii). []
  9. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.1(b)(1)(iii). []
  10. Pennsylvania State Police, 2013 Firearms Annual Report 2-3 (2014). []
  11. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(7). []
  12. Id. []
  13. Id. []
  14. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.1(h)(2). []
  15. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.1(c). []
  16. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.1(e). []
  17. Pennsylvania State Police, 2013 Firearms Annual Report 1 (2014). []
  18. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(c), (f)(1)-(2); 37 Pa. Code § 33.111(g). []

Background Checks in California

Posted on Monday, January 12th, 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. This background check is intended to determine whether the purchaser falls into one of the categories of persons prohibited by law from purchasing or possessing firearms. 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.

California authorizes, but does not require, the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to act as a point of contact “to the extent that funding is available.”1 Since funding is available, California is a point of contact state for firearm purchaser background checks. Firearms dealers must therefore initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting DOJ.

California law requires any prospective purchaser of (or transferee or person being loaned) a firearm to submit an application to purchase the firearm (also known as a “Dealer Record of Sale” or “DROS” form) through a licensed dealer to DOJ. The dealer must submit firearm purchaser information to DOJ on the date of the application through electronic transfer, unless DOJ makes an exception allowing a different format.2 The purchaser must present “clear evidence” of his or her identity and age to the dealer (either a valid California driver’s license or a valid California identification card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles).3 Dealers must obtain the purchaser’s name, date of birth, and driver’s license or identification number electronically from the magnetic strip on the license or ID card.4 This information cannot be supplied by any other means except as authorized by DOJ.5 Once this information is submitted, DOJ will check available and authorized records, including the federal NICS database, in order to determine whether the person is prohibited from possessing, receiving, owning, or purchasing a firearm by state or federal law.6

In addition to checking the federal NICS database, DOJ is required to examine its own records, as well as those records that it is authorized to request from the State Department of State Hospitals.7 If the person is prohibited from possessing firearms under state or federal law, DOJ must immediately notify the dealer and the local sheriff or chief of police in the city and/or county where the sale was made.8  Licensed dealers are prohibited from delivering a firearm to a purchaser or transferee if the dealer has been notified by DOJ that the person is prohibited from possessing firearms.9 If the person is prohibited from possessing firearms, the dealer must make available to the prohibited person a DOJ “Prohibited Notice and Transfer” form, stating that the person is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm and that the person may obtain from DOJ the reason for the prohibition.10

When a purchaser or transferee is specifically seeking to obtain a handgun, he or she must present documentation indicating California residency. Sufficient documentation includes a utility bill from within the last three months, a residential lease, a property deed, military permanent duty station orders indicating assignment within California, or other evidence of residency as permitted by DOJ.11

In addition to California’s mandatory ten-day waiting period,12 DOJ must also tell the dealer to delay the transfer of the firearm to the purchaser if DOJ is unable to determine, in any of the following scenarios, whether the purchaser is a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm: 1) the purchaser has been taken into custody and placed in a facility for mental health treatment or evaluation and may be a danger to self or others; 2) the purchaser has been arrested or charged with a crime that, if convicted, would make the person prohibited from possessing a firearm; or 3) the person may be attempting to purchase more than one firearm within a 30-day period.13 If DOJ is unable to obtain a final disposition under any of these scenarios within 30 days of the original submission of the purchaser’s information by the dealer, then DOJ must notify the dealer and the dealer may then, at the dealer’s discretion, transfer the firearm to the purchaser.14

Note that holders of a California entertainment firearms permit are exempt from the requirement of a background check, due to a loophole in federal law. For further information, see the Licensing of Gun Owners and Purchasers in California section.

Voluntary background checks: Any person may request a voluntary determination, called a “firearms eligibility check,” from DOJ, stating whether he or she is eligible to possess a firearm.15 With few exceptions, no person or agency may require or request another person to obtain a firearms eligibility check.16 DOJ is authorized to charge a fee of $20 for conducting each check.17

Firearms in police custody: Any person claiming title to any firearm in the custody or control of a court or law enforcement agency who wishes to have the firearm returned must undergo a background check to determine if he or she is eligible to possess a firearm.18 If an individual does not seek return of a firearm, or if he or she fails to pass the background check, the person must relinquish the firearm and, if the firearm is an otherwise legal firearm and the person otherwise has the right to title of the firearm, he or she may relinquish it by selling it or transferring title to a licensed dealer.19

Private sales: With limited exceptions, all firearms transfers must be conducted through a licensed dealer.20 For more information, see the Private Sales in California section below.

  1. Cal. Penal Code § 28220(b). []
  2. Cal. Penal Code § 28205. []
  3. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16400, 26815, 28215. Note that dealers are prohibited from transferring handguns to persons under age 21, or any other firearm to persons under the age of 18. Cal. Penal Code § 27510. []
  4. Cal. Penal Code § 28180. []
  5. Id. []
  6. Cal. Penal Code § 28220(a). []
  7. Cal. Penal Code § 28220(a). []
  8. Cal. Penal Code § 28220(c). []
  9. Cal. Penal Code § 26815(d). []
  10. Id. []
  11. Cal. Penal Code § 26845. []
  12. Cal. Penal Code §§ 26815(a), 27540(a). []
  13. Cal. Penal Code § 28220(f)(1)(A). If this occurs, the dealer must then provide the purchaser with information about the manner in which the purchaser may contact DOJ regarding this delay. Cal. Penal Code § 28220(f)(1)(B). []
  14. Cal. Penal Code § 28220(f)(4). If DOJ is able to ascertain a final disposition within 30 days, then it must either notify the dealer that the purchase may immediately go through, or it must notify the dealer and local law enforcement that the person is prohibited from possessing a firearm, depending on the final result. Cal. Penal Code § 28220(f)(3). []
  15. Cal. Penal Code § 30105. []
  16. Cal. Penal Code § 30105(h). []
  17. Cal. Penal Code § 30105(b). []
  18. Cal. Penal Code § 33850. []
  19. Cal. Penal Code §§ 33850(b), 33870(a). []
  20. See Cal. Penal Code § 27545 et seq. []

Background Checks in Washington

Posted on Friday, December 19th, 2014

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.)

Washington is a partial point of contact state for the NICS.1 In Washington, local law enforcement departments serve as state points of contact for implementation of the Brady Act for all dealer deliveries of handguns. Transfers of rifles and shotguns by licensed dealers are processed through the FBI.2

Licensed dealers must conduct background checks on prospective purchasers each time a dealer transfers a firearm.3 Washington requires firearms dealers to use NICS, the Washington State Patrol electronic database, the Department of Social and Health Services’ electronic database, and other agencies or resources as appropriate when processing firearm transactions.4

In 2014, Washington became the first state in the nation to pass a universal background checks law by voter initiative.5 The law requires all private sales of firearms to be conducted through a federally licensed firearms dealer who will conduct a background check on the private buyer. See the Washington Private Sales section and our Private Sales policy summary.

See also the Retention of Sales / Background Check Records in Washington section.

Brady Exemption

Concealed pistol license holders whose licenses were issued on or after July 22, 2011, qualify as exempt from future background checks when purchasing a firearm, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) chart that outlines those permits that qualify as alternatives to the federal Brady Act. Please note that ATF’s exempt status determination for a given state is subject to change without notice.

Under federal law, persons who have been issued state permits to purchase or possess firearms are exempt 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.6

  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 Jan. 17, 2012). []
  2. Id. []
  3. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.090(2)(b). []
  4. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.090(2)(b). []
  5. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.010 []
  6. 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(3), 27 C.F.R. § 478.102(d). []

Background Checks in Colorado

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014

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.)

Colorado is a point of contact state for firearm purchaser background checks.1 In Colorado, all firearm transfers by licensed dealers are processed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which enforces federal, as well as state, purchaser prohibitions.2

Colorado requires CBI to transmit a request for a background check in connection with the prospective transfer of a firearm to the NICS system and authorizes CBI to search other databases. CBI must deny a transfer of a firearm to a prospective transferee if the transfer would violate federal or state law.3

Colorado denies a prospective firearm purchaser’s application if the background check cannot be completed within the three-day default period. More specifically, Colorado law provides that an application for a firearm purchase must be denied in cases in which there has been no final disposition or the final disposition is not noted in the NICS or state databases, where the applicant:  1) has been arrested for or charged with a crime that would prohibit him or her from purchasing, receiving or possessing a firearm under state or federal law; or 2) is the subject of an indictment, an information, or a felony complaint alleging that the prospective transferee has committed a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.4 However, “the inability of the bureau to obtain the final disposition of a case that is no longer pending shall not constitute the basis for the continued denial of the transfer.”5

Colorado law explicitly provides access to juvenile delinquency court and probation records for firearm background check purposes.6 Colorado law also provides procedures for appeal of a denial of a firearm transfer.7

CBI must adopt rules to carry out these duties.8

Colorado requires private sellers (sellers who are not federally licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. Any private person who seeks to transfer possession of a firearm to a prospective transferee must:  1) require that a background check is conducted on the prospective transferee by a licensed gun dealer; and 2) obtain approval of the transfer from CBI after a background check has been requested by a licensed gun dealer.9

When a licensed dealer obtains a background check on a prospective transferee, the dealer must record the transfer and retain the records as the same manner as when conducting a sale, rental, or exchange at retail.  The dealer must also provide the transferor and transferee with a copy of the results of the background check, including the CBI’s approval or disapproval of the transfer.10

A transferee cannot accept possession of the firearm from a private seller until CBI approves a transfer.  The transfer must be completed within 30 days of that approval.11

A transferee is prohibited from knowingly providing false information to a prospective transferor or to a licensed dealer for the purpose of acquiring a firearm.12

See Private Sales in Colorado for further information.  Also see our Private Sales policy summary for related information.

  1. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(2). 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. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(2). []
  3. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(3)(a). []
  4. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(3)(b). []
  5. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(5)(c). []
  6. Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 19-1-304(1)(a)(VII.5), (1)(c)(II.5), (2)(a)(II.5). []
  7. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(5). []
  8. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(7). See 8 Colo. Code Regs. § 1507-20. []
  9. Colo. Rev. Stat § 18-12-112(1)(a). If the transferee is an entity (e.g. a business), then a background check must be conducted on each person who is authorized by the entity to possess a firearm. Colo. Rev. Stat § 18-12-112(1)(b), (2)(A). []
  10. Colo. Rev. Stat § 18-12-112(2)(b), (c). []
  11. Colo. Rev. Stat § 18-12-112(3)(a), (4). []
  12. Colo. Rev. Stat § 18-12-112(3)(b). []

Background Checks in Illinois

Posted on Thursday, October 9th, 2014

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.)

Illinois is a point of contact state for the NICS.1 Federally licensed firearms dealers must contact the Illinois Department of State Police (“DSP”) for a background check before transferring any firearm.2 The DSP searches its criminal history record information files, the FBI and NICS databases, and the files of the Department of Human Services relating to mental health and developmental disabilities to verify that prospective purchasers are not prohibited from possessing a firearm.3 The DSP must approve the transfer or inform the dealer of the applicant’s ineligibility within the waiting periods set forth by state law, which are 24 hours for long guns and 72 hours for handguns.4

Illinois requires DSP to report to local law enforcement the name and address of a person attempting to purchase a firearm who is disqualified from doing so.5

Except at gun shows (see the Gun Shows in Illinois section for more information on background check requirements at gun shows), private firearms sellers (i.e., persons who are not federally licensed) are not required to conduct background checks in Illinois, but all sellers must be presented with a prospective purchaser’s Firearm Owner’s Identification card.6 With certain limited exceptions, any private seller of a firearm who seeks to transfer a firearm to any unlicensed purchaser must, prior to transfer, contact the Department of State Police (DSP) with the transferee’s Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) Card number to determine the validity of the transferee’s FOID Card.7 Federal and state purchaser prohibitions also apply to private firearms transfers.

See our Private Sales policy summary for more on 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. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.1. []
  3. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.1. []
  4. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.1; 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-3(A)(g). []
  5. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.3. []
  6. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3(a). []
  7. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3(a-10). []

Background Checks in Massachusetts

Posted on Friday, October 3rd, 2014

See our Background Checks Policy Summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

** Please note: Some of the laws referenced on this page were enacted in 2014 and are not yet in effect. Please check the law directly to determine its effective date.

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.)

Massachusetts is not a point of contact state for the NICS. As a result, in Massachusetts, firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly.1 A state administrative regulation confirms this requirement.2

Massachusetts also requires firearms owners to obtain a state license prior to purchase of a firearm, and the applicant for a license must undergo a background check before the license is issued. For more information about these licenses, see Licensing of Gun Owners or Purchasers below. Massachusetts requires firearms dealers to verify the validity of a potential transferee’s license prior to transferring a firearm.3 For licenses issued via the Massachusetts Instant Record Check System (MIRCS), the dealer must electronically submit:

  • The transferee’s license number;
  • The licensing authority that issued the license;
  • The type of firearm being purchased; and
  • Whether or not the firearm is a large capacity weapon.4

The dealer must then verify the transferee’s identity and validity of his or her license by scanning the fingerprint or entering the personal identification number contained on the license.5 If the license presented is expired, suspended or revoked, the dealer must notify the licensing authority and may take possession of it (in the latter case, the dealer must provide the holder with a receipt for the FID, permit or license, notify the holder of the need to renew the FID, permit or license, and forward it to the licensing authority).6

Massachusetts does not allow private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to sell more than four guns a year.7. Although Massachusetts does not explicitly require private sellers to conduct a background check of prospective purchasers, in 2014, Massachusetts enacted a law requiring the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services to develop a web portal through which private sellers of firearms can conduct a real-time check of the validity of the purchaser’s Firearm Identification Card and other necessary licenses.8

For more information about Massachusetts licensing of gun owners and laws governing private sales, see Licensing of Gun Owners & Purchasers in Massachusetts and Private Sales.

 

  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. 803 Mass. Code Regs. 10.06(1)(e)(directing a gun dealer to contact the “national instant check system”). []
  3. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 123 (Thirteenth). []
  4. 803 Mass. Code Regs. 10.06(1)(a). []
  5. 803 Mass. Code Regs. 10.04, 10.06(1)(c). []
  6. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 123 (Thirteenth). []
  7. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 128A []
  8. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 128A. []

Background Checks in Delaware

Posted on Friday, October 3rd, 2014

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 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.3

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;4
  • Hospitals and residential centers;5
  • 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;6 and
  • The Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families.7
  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, § 1448B(a). []
  4. Del. Code Ann. tit. 16, § 5161(b)(14). []
  5. Del. Code Ann. tit. 16, § 5161(b)(13)(g). []
  6. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 8509 []
  7. Del. Code Ann. tit. 29, § 9017(c). []

Background Checks in New Jersey

Posted on Monday, September 29th, 2014

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 Jersey is characterized as a full point-of-contact state for NICS. The New Jersey State Police (NJSP) serves as state points of contact for implementation of the Brady Act.1

In addition to the background check requirement at the point of sale, all firearm purchasers must have either: 1) a permit to purchase a handgun, allowing the purchase of one handgun per permit;2 or 2) a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card (FPIC), allowing unlimited rifle and shotgun purchases.3

Applications to obtain a permit to purchase a handgun or FPIC must be processed through NJSP or local law enforcement, which in turn use NICS and other state and local records to verify that prospective purchasers are not prohibited from possessing a firearm prior to the issuance of a permit to purchase or FPIC. For more detail on the permit to purchase and FPIC requirements, see the New Jersey Licensing of Gun Owners or Purchasers section.

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

 

  1. N.J. Admin. Code §§ 13:54-3.12, 13:54-3.13(a)(6). 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 Sept. 5, 2011). []
  2. N.J. Admin. Code § 13:54-1.9(a). []
  3. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:58-3a, 3b, 3f; N.J. Admin. Code § 13:54-1.9(b). []

Background Checks in Florida

Posted on Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

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.)

Florida is a point of contact state for the NICS. As a result, firearms dealers in Florida must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).1 More specifically, Florida law prohibits a licensed dealer from selling or delivering a firearm from his or her inventory at his or her licensed premises to anyone except a licensed dealer, importer, or manufacturer, without:

  • Obtaining a completed form from the buyer or transferee, and inspecting proper photographic identification;
  • Calling the FDLE and requesting a check of “the information as reported and reflected in the Florida Crime Information Center and National Crime Information Center systems as of the date of the request;” and
  • Receiving a unique approval number from FDLE and recording that number and the date on the form.2

Upon receiving a request for a background check, the FDLE is required to review any available records to determine if the buyer or transferee is prohibited from purchasing a firearm because he or she has been:

  • Convicted of a felony;
  • Convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; or
  • “Adjudicated mentally defective” or “committed to a mental institution” by a court.3

Florida law provides definitions of the terms “adjudicated mentally defective” and “committed to a mental institution.” Most individuals in these categories are prohibited by federal law from possessing or purchasing firearms.4 Persons involuntarily committed for outpatient treatment are included within the definition of “committed to a mental institution.”5

In 2013, Florida enacted a law that includes a person taken into custody involuntarily for a mental health evaluation and subsequently voluntarily admitted to a mental institution for outpatient or inpatient treatment in the definition of  “committed to a mental institution” if:  (1) an examining physician has determined that the person poses an imminent danger to himself, herself, or others and has certified that he or she would have filed a petition for involuntary commitment if the person had not agreed to voluntary treatment; (2) the person has been given notice and an opportunity to contest this certification; and (3) a court has reviewed this certification and ordered the person’s record to be submitted.6

For information about the restoration of firearm eligibility for persons previously adjudicated mentally defective or committed to a mental institution, please see the Florida Mental Health Reporting section.

In addition, the FDLE must review available records to determine if the buyer or transferee has had adjudication of guilt withheld or imposition of sentence suspended on any felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence unless three years have elapsed since probation or any other conditions set by the court have been fulfilled or expunction has occurred.7 If any of these disqualifying conditions exist, the FDLE must inform the dealer that the buyer or transferee is prohibited from purchasing a firearm and must provide the licensee a nonapproval number.8

The FDLE must also review available records and issue a conditional nonapproval number if the buyer or transferee:

  • Has been indicted or has had an information filed against her or him for a felony;
  • Is subject to a domestic violence protective order, or an injunction against repeat violence; or
  • Has been arrested for one of 22 enumerated “dangerous crime[s]” or for criminal anarchy, extortion, certain explosives violations, certain controlled substances violations, resisting an officer with violence, certain weapons and firearms violations, treason, assisting self-murder, sabotage, stalking or aggravated stalking.9

The FDLE then has 24 “working hours” (3 business days) in which to determine the disposition of the indictment, information, or arrest and inform the dealer as to whether the potential buyer is prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm.10 Florida law requires the clerk of court to respond to an FDLE request for data on the disposition of the indictment, information, or arrest as soon as possible, but in no event later than 8 working hours.11 FDLE must continue its attempts to obtain the disposition information and may retain a record of all approval numbers granted without sufficient disposition information.12 If FDLE later obtains disposition information indicating that the person is prohibited from possessing a firearm, FDLE must revoke the conditional approval number and notify law enforcement.13 During the time that disposition of the indictment, information, or arrest is pending, the conditional nonapproval number remains in effect.14

Neither federal nor Florida law requires private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm.

See our Private Sales policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

In addition, Florida specifically exempts concealed weapons license holders from the state’s background check requirement.15 However, Florida concealed weapons license holders are not exempt from the federal background check requirement.16

  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. 29, 2012). []
  2. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(1). Under Fla. Stat. § 790.065(10), a licensed importer, manufacturer, or dealer is not required to comply with the background check requirements of Fla. Stat. § 790.065 in the event of unavailability of telephone service at the licensed premises, or failure of FDLE to comply with the requirements of Florida law pertaining to firearm purchaser background checks. []
  3. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2). []
  4. See Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4)(a), (b). []
  5. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4)(a). []
  6. See Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4)(b)(II). []
  7. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a). []
  8. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(b). []
  9. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(c)(1). []
  10. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(c)(2). []
  11. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(c)(3). []
  12. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(c)(7). []
  13. Id. []
  14. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(c)(8). []
  15. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(1)(b). []
  16. 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 Alabama

Posted on Tuesday, February 28th, 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.)

Alabama is not a point of contact state for the NICS. Alabama law simply reiterates the federal requirement that firearms dealers must initiate background checks through NICS prior to transferring firearms.1 As a result, in Alabama, firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly.2 Alabama law also independently requires licensed handgun dealers to view a purchaser’s identification before transferring a handgun.3

Alabama does not require private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. See the Alabama Private Sales section.

  1. Ala. Code § 41-9-649. []
  2. 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. []
  3. Ala. Code § 13A-11-79. []