Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Background Checks

By Dave Dargo

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) regularly publishes statistics on background checks conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  NICS is run by the FBI and most gun-purchases go through NICS to assure the purchaser is not a prohibited person, that is, someone who is not permitted to possess a firearm.

NICS was set up as part of the Brady Bill to make it more difficult for a prohibited person to obtain a firearm.

Not all firearms transactions go through NICS.  For example, in a private party transfer meeting certain specifications a NICS check is not necessary.  Some states with concealed weapons permits systems qualify to exempt their permit holders from needing a background check when acquiring a firearm.

Anyone who examines the data, or reads stories about NICS, knows that the number of checks being conducted is growing tremendously.  The NSSF notes in their most recent article that May, 2013 marks the 36th consecutive month in which the year-to-year comparison of NICS checks has increased.  To give you a sense of the numbers:

  • 2010 saw 14,409,616 background checks
  • 2011 saw 16,454,951 background checks
  • 2012 saw 19,592,303 background checks
  • Through May, 2013 there were 10,164,990 background checks - on track for another record year
NICS works buy keeping a list of those people who are not permitted to possess a firearm.  At least as interesting as the number of checks conducted are the statistics about who is in NICS.

There are 10,530,966 people in NICS who are prohibited from possessing a firearm.  If they attempt to purchase a firearm they will be denied. Here is the complete list (which can be accessed from NICS here):

Rank Prohibited Category Description Total Percent of Total
1Illegal Unlawful Alien5,392,85151.21%
2Adjudicated Mental Health2,926,36327.79%
3Convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year or a misdemeanor punishable by more than two years1,593,41915.13%
4Fugitive from Justice397,6783.78%
5Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence Conviction92,8640.88%
6Federally Denied Persons File33,9280.32%
7Under Indictment/Information33,5280.32%
8Renounced U.S. Citizenship22,1970.21%
9Unlawful User/Addicted to a Controlled Substance20,2250.19%
10Dishonorable Discharge10,2460.10%
11Protection/Restraining Order for Domestic Violence4,6880.04%
12State Prohibitor2,9790.03%
Total Active Records in the NICS Index10,530,966100.00%

I'm not sure what I expected to see in the numbers but I do know that I didn't expect to see illegal aliens making up more than half the total.  I also expected to see a larger number of criminals on the list.

So, just how many denials have there been? Here are the numbers since NICS started (November 30, 1998 - May 31,2013):

Rank Prohibited Category Description Total Percent of Total
1Convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year or a misdemeanor punishable by more than two years595,37557.91%
2Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence Conviction104,00610.11%
3Fugitive from Justice101,6499.89%
4Unlawful User/Addicted to a Controlled Substance85,1238.28%
5State Prohibitor46,6534.54%
6Protection/Restraining Order for Domestic Violence43,7224.25%
7Under Indictment/Information21,5092.09%
8Illegal/Unlawful Alien12,3641.20%
9Adjudicated Mental Health11,3931.11%
10Federally Denied Persons File5,5550.54%
11Dishonorable Discharge7480.07%
12Renounced U.S. Citizenship580.01%
Total Federal Denials1,028,155100.00%

So, there you have it, the other side of the background check system.

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