State Background Checks for Guns

Background Checks in Utah

Posted on Thursday, September 3rd, 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.)

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

The dealer must require an individual receiving a firearm to present one form of government-issued photo identification. The individual must consent in writing to the background check and provide personal information on a form provided by BCI. The dealer must then contact BCI by telephone or electronic means.3 BCI is required to review criminal history files, including juvenile court records, to determine if the individual is prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm by state or federal law, prior to approving a firearm transfer.4 The dealer may not transfer the firearm until receiving approval from BCI.5

Federal law does not require dealers to conduct a background check if a firearm purchaser presents a state permit to purchase or possess firearms that meets certain conditions. As a result, Utah concealed handgun license holders are exempt from the federal background check requirement when purchasing a firearm.6 Utah law also exempts concealed handgun license holders from the state provision requiring a background check.7 (Note, however, that people who have become prohibited from possessing firearms may continue to hold state firearms licenses if the state fails to remove these licenses in a timely fashion.)

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

  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map (last visited Sept. 3, 2015). []
  2. See Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-526(3)(a). Under Utah law, this requirement does not apply if the federally licensed dealer is transferring the firearm to another federally licensed dealer. Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-526(3)(b). []
  3. Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-526. []
  4. Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-526. []
  5. Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-526. []
  6. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, U.S. Department of Justice, Brady Law: Permanent Brady Permit Chart (Sept. 4, 2015), at: https://www.atf.gov/rules-and-regulations/permanent-brady-permit-chart. []
  7. Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-526(13). []

Background Checks in Tennessee

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 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.)

Tennessee is a point of contact state for firearm purchaser background checks. In Tennessee, firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (“TBI”). TBI enforces the federal purchaser prohibitions referenced above.1

Any person appropriately licensed by the federal government may stock and sell firearms to any potential purchaser not ineligible to receive firearms because such recipient has been convicted of stalking,2 is addicted to alcohol, is prohibited under the prohibited categories of federal law3 or has been judicially committed to a mental institution or adjudicated as a mental defective.4

Before delivering any firearm to a purchaser, a firearms dealer must:

  • Receive from the prospective purchaser current identification;5
  • Complete a firearm transaction record as required by federal law and obtain the signature of the purchaser on the record;
  • Request that TBI conduct a criminal history record check on the purchaser, providing the following information to TBI:
    • The federal firearms license number of the dealer;
    • The business name of the dealer;
    • The place of transfer;
    • The name of the person making the transfer;
    • The make, model, caliber and manufacturer’s number of the firearm being transferred;
    • The name, gender, race, and date of birth of the purchaser;
    • The social security number of the purchaser, if one has been assigned; and
    • The type, issuer and identification number of the identification presented by the purchaser; and
  • Receive a unique approval number for the transfer from TBI and record this number on the firearm transaction record.6

TBI may require that the dealer verify the identification of the purchaser if that identity is in question by sending thumbprints of the purchaser to TBI.7

Firearm transfers will be denied if TBI finds that the potential purchaser has been charged with a crime for which a conviction would cause that purchaser to be prohibited under state or federal law from purchasing, receiving, or possessing a firearm, and a final disposition of the case has not occurred or is not recorded.8 However, if TBI has received written notice, signed and verified by the clerk of the court or the clerk’s designee, that indicates that no final disposition information is available, TBI must immediately reverse a denial and allow the sale to proceed.9 Alternatively, if the purchaser challenges a denial, TBI must proceed with efforts to obtain the final disposition information, and the purchaser may assist. If neither the purchaser nor TBI is able to obtain the final disposition information within 15 days, TBI must immediately notify the dealer that the transaction that was initially denied is now a “conditional proceed.” A “conditional proceed” means that the dealer may lawfully transfer the firearm to the purchaser.10

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

Sellers of firearms who are not federally licensed dealers are not required to conduct background checks on purchasers in Tennessee.  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. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 38-6-109 and 39-17-1316 for greater detail on TBI’s processing of criminal background checks. []
  2. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-315. []
  3. See 18 U.S.C. § 922. []
  4. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1316(a)(1). []
  5. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1316(f). []
  6. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1316(c). []
  7. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1316(g). []
  8. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1316(n). []
  9. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1316(p). []
  10. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1316(o). []

Background Checks in Washington

Posted on Monday, August 31st, 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.)

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. Washington also requires law enforcement to run a background check before returning a confiscated firearm.6

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.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 Aug. 31, 2015). []
  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. 2015 WA S.B. 5381, Sect. 2(1). []
  7. 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(3), 27 C.F.R. § 478.102(d). []

Background Checks in West Virginia

Posted on Monday, August 31st, 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.)

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

Firearms transfers by private sellers (non-firearms dealers) are not subject to background checks in West Virginia, although federal and state purchaser prohibitions still apply. See the West Virginia Private Sales section.

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. []

Background Checks in Delaware

Posted on Monday, August 31st, 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 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 Alaska

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 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.)

Alaska is not a point of contact state for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Alaska has no law requiring firearms dealers to initiate background checks prior to transferring a firearm. As a result, in Alaska, 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, holders of concealed weapons permits marked NICS-Exempt in Alaska are exempt from the federal background check requirement.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.)

Alaska 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. 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 (Jun. 10, 2014), at: https://www.atf.gov/rules-and-regulations/permanent-brady-permit-chart. []

Background Checks in Oregon

Posted on Thursday, August 27th, 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.)

Oregon is a point of contact state for the NICS.1 Before the sale or transfer of any firearm, a firearms dealer must request by telephone that the Oregon Department of State Police (DSP) conduct a criminal history record check on an applicant using NICS and state databases (including the state’s mental health data system).2 For this purpose, the dealer must check the purchaser’s identification, complete a firearms transaction record, and obtain the signature and thumbprints of the purchaser.3 If DSP is unable to determine, within 30 minutes, whether the purchaser is qualified or disqualified from completing the transfer, DSP shall notify the dealer and provide the dealer with an estimate of the time when DSP will provide the requested information.4 If DSP fails to provide the dealer with an approval number or notify the gun dealer that the purchaser is disqualified from obtaining the firearm before the close of the gun dealer’s next business day following the dealer’s background check request, the dealer may deliver the firearm to the purchaser.5

All background checks for firearm transfers include a search of Oregon’s computerized criminal history system, the Law Enforcement Data System, NICS, the state stolen guns system, and the state mental health data system.6

In 2015, Oregon closed the private sale loophole by enacting a law requiring private or unlicensed firearm sellers to conduct background checks on private or unlicensed purchasers (see Private Sales in Oregon for more information).

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. Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 166.412(2)(d), 166.432(1), 166.434(1). []
  3. Or. Rev. Stat. § 166.412(2)(a)-(c). []
  4. Or. Rev. Stat. § 166.412(3)(b). []
  5. Or. Rev. Stat. § 166.412(3)(c). []
  6. Or. Rev. Stat. § 166.432. For DSP’s rules regarding background checks, see Or. Admin. R. 257-010-0010 et seq. []

Background Checks in Indiana

Posted on Tuesday, August 25th, 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.)

Indiana is not a point of contact state for the NICS. Indiana law explicitly requires dealers to conduct a background check prior to transferring a handgun, by contacting the FBI directly.1 Although Indiana has no law explicitly requiring firearms dealers to initiate a background check prior to transferring a long gun, the federal law requires dealers to initiate a background check prior to the transfer of any kind of gun by contacting the FBI directly.2

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

Indiana 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. Ind. Code Ann. § 35-47-2.5-4(a). []
  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 (last visited Aug. 25, 2015). []

Background Checks in Minnesota

Posted on Tuesday, August 25th, 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.)

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

State law requires local law enforcement to perform an additional background check in certain situations. With certain exceptions, if a person wishes to acquire a handgun or semiautomatic military-style assault weapon from a federally licensed dealer but does not have a transferee permit or a permit to carry a handgun, state law requires the dealer to file a report with the local police chief or sheriff, who then performs a background check.2 Note that a transferee permit or permit to carry a handgun does not exempt the holder from the background check required by federal law, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) chart that outlines those permits that qualify as alternatives to the Brady Act.

Local law enforcement also must conduct a background check whenever a person applies for a transferee permit or a permit to carry a handgun.3

When performing a background check for any of these purposes, the chief of police or sheriff is required to check criminal histories, records and warrant information relating to the applicant through the Minnesota Crime Information System and any national criminal record repository (including NICS), and commitment information through the state Commissioner of Human Services.4

Minnesota 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 Aug. 25, 2015). []
  2. Minn. Stat. § 624.7132, subd. 1, 2; see also Minn. Stat. § 624.7132, subd. 12(1) (exempting private sellers from this requirement). []
  3. Minn. Stat. §§ 624.7131, subd. 2, subd. 4; 624.714, subd. 4. []
  4. Minn. Stat. §§ 624.7131, subd. 2; 624.7132, subd. 2; 624.714, subd. 4. []

Background Checks in Rhode Island

Posted on Tuesday, August 25th, 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.)

Rhode Island is not a point-of-contact state for NICS. In Rhode Island, licensed dealers are required to contact the FBI for the federally required background check.1 However, Rhode Island also requires both licensed dealers and private unlicensed sellers to conduct background checks through the state police or local chief of police. All prospective firearms purchasers in Rhode Island must complete and sign an application form which the seller must send to the state police or local chief of police for the background check. The police authority has seven days to verify that the applicant’s background meets state requirements.2

Note that concealed handgun license holders in Rhode Island are exempt from the Rhode Island background check requirement, but not the federal background check requirement (which applies only when the seller is a licensed dealer).3

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 (last visited Aug. 25, 2015). []
  2. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-47-35(a)(2), 11-47-35.2(b). A similar, but somewhat expedited, procedure exists for persons seeking to purchase a handgun from out-of-state. R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-36. Federal law requires all out-of-state sales to Rhode Island residents to be made through a licensed firearms dealer in Rhode Island. 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(3), (5), (b)(3). []
  3. See 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; R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-47-35, 11-47-35.1, and 11-47-35.2. []