NICS Act Record Improvement Program

To improve the FBI s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) by providing assistance to states to improve the completeness, automation and transmittal to state and federal systems the records utilized by the NICS.

Such records include criminal history records, records of felony

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convictions, warrants, records of protective orders, convictions for misdemeanor involving domestic violence and stalking, records of mental health adjudications, and others, which may disqualify an individual from possessing or receiving a firearm under federal law.

Helping states to automate these records will also reduce delays for law-abiding gun purchasers.

The NICS Improvement Act amends the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 ("the Brady Act") (Public Law 103-159), under which the Attorney General established NICS.

The Brady Act requires Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) to contact the NICS before transferring a firearm to an unlicensed person for information on whether the proposed transferee is prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm under state or federal law.

The NICS Improvement Act was enacted in the wake of the April 2007 shooting tragedy at Virginia Tech.

The Virginia Tech shooter was able to purchase firearms from an FFL because information about his prohibiting mental health history was not available to the NICS and the system was therefore unable to deny the transfer of the firearms used in the shootings.

The Act seeks to address the gap in information available to NICS about such prohibiting mental health adjudications and commitments and other prohibiting backgrounds.

Filling these information gaps will better enable the system to operate as intended to keep guns out of the hands of persons prohibited by federal or state law from receiving or possessing firearms.

The Act authorized two grant programs to assist states in providing certain information to the NICS, and prescribes grant penalties for non-compliance with the Act s record completeness goals.

Pursuant to the Act, there are certain conditions, described below, that a state must satisfy in advance of receiving grants under the Act.

The NICS Improvement Act has provisions that require states to meet specified goals for completeness of the records submitted to the Attorney General on individuals prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms.

The records covered include automated information needed by the NICS to identify felony convictions, felony indictments, fugitives from justice, drug arrests and convictions, prohibiting mental health adjudications and commitments, domestic violence protection orders, and misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence.

The Act provides for a number of incentives for states to meet the goals it sets for greater record completeness.

First, the Act allows states to obtain a waiver, beginning in 2011, of the state matching requirement under the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP) grant program, if a state provides at least 90 percent of its records identifying persons in specified prohibited categories.

Second, the Act authorizes grant programs described herein, which, pursuant to the Act, are being administered consistent with NCHIP, for state executive and judicial agencies to establish and upgrade information automation and identification technologies for timely submission of final criminal record dispositions and other information relevant to NICS checks.

Finally, the Act provides for discretionary and mandatory Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program grant penalties, beginning 3 years after enactment, for non-compliance with specified record completeness requirements within certain timeframes: after 3 years, 3 percent may be withheld in the case of less than 50 percent completeness; after 5 years, 4 percent may be withheld in the case of less than 70 percent completeness; and after 10 years, 5 percent shall be withheld in the case of less than 90 percent completeness (although the mandatory reduction can be waived if there is substantial evidence of the state making a reasonable effort to comply).

Agency - Department of Justice

The Department of Justice enforces the law and defends the interest of the United States, ensuring public safety against threats foreign and domestic; providing Federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; seeking just punishment for those guilty of unlawful pursuits; and ensuring fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.

Relevant Nonprofit Program Categories

Program Accomplishments

Fiscal Year 2012: Fiscal Year 2013: No Current Data Available Fiscal Year 2014: No Current Data Available

Uses and Use Restrictions

The Act outlines the allowable uses of grant funds:

Grants to States:

Section 103 of the NICS Improvement Act, regarding implementation assistance to the states, provides that the grants "shall be used by the States and Indian tribal governments, in conjunction with units of local government and State and local courts, to establish or upgrade information and identification technologies for firearms eligibility determinations." In accordance with the Act, a grant to a state, territory or Indian tribes may only be used to:

• Create electronic systems, which provide accurate and up-to-date information which is directly related to checks under the NICS, including court disposition and corrections records;
• Assist states in establishing or enhancing their own capacities to perform NICS background checks;
• Supply accurate and timely information to the Attorney General concerning final dispositions of criminal records to databases accessed by NICS;
• Supply accurate and timely information to the Attorney General concerning the identity of persons who have a federally prohibiting mental health adjudication or commitment;
• Supply accurate and timely court orders and records of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence for inclusion in federal and state law enforcement databases used to conduct NICS background checks;
• Collect and analyze data needed to demonstrate levels of state compliance with the Act; and
• Maintain the required relief from disabilities program in accordance with the Act - however, not less than 3 percent and no more than 10 percent of each grant shall be used for this purpose.

State Court Grants

Section 301 of the Act provides that grants shall be made to each state and territory, consistent with the state s plans for the integration, automation, and accessibility of criminal history records, for use by the court systems to improve automation and transmittal to federal and state repositories of: (1) criminal history dispositions; (2) records relevant to determining whether a person has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence or a prohibiting domestic violence protection order; and (3) prohibiting mental adjudications and commitments.

Further, the law provides that the amounts granted shall be used by the state court system only to:

• Carry out, as necessary, assessments of the capabilities of state courts to automate and transmit arrest and conviction records, court orders, and mental health adjudications or commitments to federal and state record repositories; and
• Implement policies, systems, procedures to automate and transmit arrest and conviction records, court orders, and mental health adjudications or commitments to federal and state record repositories.