State Background Checks for Guns

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. []

Background Checks in New Hampshire

Posted on Thursday, January 29th, 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.)

New Hampshire is a “partial point of contact” state for NICS. New Hampshire law authorizes, but does not require, the New Hampshire Department of Safety (“DOS”) to act as a point of contact for NICS.1 DOS has chosen to act as a point of contact for handgun sales, but not long gun sales. This means that, in New Hampshire, firearms dealers selling handguns must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting DOS, but firearm dealers selling long guns must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly.2

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

New Hampshire 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 a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

  1. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 159-D:1. []
  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. []

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.

A person violating these provisions who has already been convicted under them previously (in other words, a repeat offender), receives an enhanced punishment under Pennsylvania law.19

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). []
  19. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(h). []

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). []