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National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Operations 2013

National Instant Criminal Background Check System
(NICS) Operations 2013

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Our Mission

FBI

The mission of the FBI is to protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the  United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners.

Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division
The mission of the CJIS Division is to equip our law enforcement, national security, and intelligence community partners with the criminal justice information they need to protect the United States while preserving civil liberties.

NICS Section
The mission of the NICS Section is to enhance national security and public safety by providing the timely and accurate determination of a person’s eligibility to possess firearms and/or explosives in accordance with federal law.


Executive Summary

The FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Section has processed firearm background checks since November 30, 1998.  Since that time, the experience gained enhances national security and public safety by identifying, developing, and implementing improvements in support of the NICS Section’s mission.  Striving to provide effective and efficient service to its customers, highlights of the NICS operations in 2013 include the following:

  • From the inception of the NICS on November 30, 1998, to December 31, 2013, a total of 181,567,975 transactions have been processed.  Of these, 85,196,840 transactions were processed by the NICS Section and 96,371,135 transactions were processed by state users.  Of the 21,093,273 background checks processed through the NICS in 2013, a total of 9,315,963 transactions were processed by the NICS Section and 11,777,310 were processed by state users.
  • Denials issued by the NICS Section totaled 88,203.  Since inception of the NICS on November 30, 1998, the NICS Section has denied a total of 1,075,781 transactions. 
  • The NICS Section achieved a 91.82 percent Immediate Determination Rate, surpassing the U.S. Attorney General-mandated goal of 90 percent or better.
  • The NICS Section processed 98,688 explosives transactions.  Denials issued by the NICS Section totaled 2,403.
  • The NICS Section processed 2,596,745 of the total 7,360,400 firearms and explosives transactions conducted via the Internet-based NICS E-Check.  The amount of transactions processed in 2013 is a 66.25 percent increase over those processed in 2012.
  • The NICS Index expanded in 2012 to include state-prohibiting records.  The expansion was a contributing factor in the number of records maintained in the NICS Index.  As of December 31, 2013, the NICS Index records totaled 11,166,690, which is an increase of 2,842,759 records over December 31, 2012.
  • The NICS Section staff obtained approximately 29,328 final dispositions which were posted to criminal history records and disseminated over 26,680 dispositions to state agencies to assist in updating state records.  As of December 31, 2013, the NICS Section staff had obtained approximately 859,000 record-completing dispositions.
  • The Voluntary Appeal File (VAF) permits the NICS Section to maintain information about persons to document their eligibility to receive firearms.  As of December 31, 2013, the VAF maintained approximately 28,000 entries with an active Unique Personal Identification Number (UPIN).  From July 2004 through December 31, 2013, over 76,000 background checks have been processed using a UPIN.
  • The NICS availability averaged 99.89 percent.
  • There were 3,375 firearm retrieval referrals forwarded to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives by the NICS Section.

FBI, CJIS Division, and NICS Section Mission Statements

Executive Summary

Welcome to the NICS Section

2013 NICS Operations

-NICS Participation

-NICS Availability

-Answer Speed

-Transfer Process Abandonment Rate

-Immediate Determination Rate

-Transactions Created in the NICS

-NICS E-Check

-NICS Peak Season

-Federal Prohibitors

-Federal Denials

-Firearm Retrieval Referrals

-NICS Appeals

-VAF

-Explosives Background Checks

-U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

-NICS Index

-Success, Outreach, and the Future

-Bioterrorism Risk Assessment Group

-Public Access Line

Welcome to the NICS Section

As a result of the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968, certain individuals, such as convicted felons, were prohibited from possessing firearms.  To strengthen federal firearms regulations, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 (Brady Act) required the U.S. Attorney General to establish the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL) to contact by telephone, or other electronic means, for information to be supplied immediately as to whether the transfer of a firearm would violate   Section 922 (g) or (n) of Title 18, United States Code (U.S.C.), or state law.

The FBI developed the NICS through a cooperative effort with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Department of Justice; and local and state law enforcement agencies.  On November 30, 1998, the NICS, designed to immediately respond to background check inquiries for prospective firearm transferees, was activated.  For an FFL to initiate a NICS check, the prospective firearms transferee must complete and sign an ATF Form 4473, Firearms Transaction Record.  The ATF Form 4473, which collects the subject’s name and descriptive data (e.g., date of birth, sex, race, state of residence, country of citizenship), also elicits information that may immediately indicate to an FFL the subject is a prohibited person, thereby negating the need to continue the processing of the background check.  When an FFL initiates a NICS background check, a name and descriptor search is conducted to identify any matching records in three nationally held databases managed by the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division.  The databases searched during the background check process are:

Interstate Identification Index (III):  The III maintains subject criminal history records.  As of December 31, 2013, the III records available to be searched by the NICS during a background check numbered 66,679,543.

National Crime Information Center (NCIC):  The NCIC contains data on persons who are the subjects of protection orders or active criminal warrants, immigration violators, and others.  As of December 31, 2013, the NCIC records available to be searched by the NICS during a background check numbered 5,463,159.

NICS Index:  The NICS Index, a database created specifically for the NICS, collects and maintains information contributed by local, state, tribal, and federal agencies pertaining to persons prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm pursuant to state and federal law.  Typically, the records maintained in the NICS Index are not available via the III or the NCIC.  As of December 31, 2013, there were 11,166,690 records in the NICS Index.

Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):  The relevant databases of the ICE are searched for non-U.S. citizens attempting to receive firearms in the United States.  In 2013, the NICS Section and the Point-of-Contact (POC) states (states that have implemented a state-based NICS program) sent 118,183 such queries to the ICE.  From February 2002 to December 31, 2013, the ICE conducted over 517,943 queries in support of the NICS.

2013 NICS Operations

In the majority of cases, the results of a background check yield definitive information regarding a subject’s eligibility when the firearm background is initiated.  However, not all inquiries can be provided a final status during the initial contact with the NICS Section.  Many transactions are delayed because of incomplete criminal history records, e.g., a missing disposition or a missing crime classification status (felony or misdemeanor), which is needed to determine if a transaction may be proceeded or must be denied.

Where a validly matched record is potentially prohibiting but is incomplete, the NICS Section must search for the information needed to complete the record.  This process often requires outreach to local, state, tribal, and/or federal agencies (e.g., arresting agencies, court systems).  The Brady Act allows the FFL to legally transfer the firearm if the NICS transaction is not resolved within three business days.  In some instances, the potentially prohibiting records are completed and the NICS transactions are determined to be denials.  The NICS Section notifies the FFL of the denial and determines if the firearm was transferred to the buyer.  If it was transferred, the NICS Section transmits this information to the ATF for further handling as a firearm retrieval referral.

Individuals who believe they are wrongfully denied the transfer of a firearm can appeal the deny decision.  The “denying agency” will be either the FBI or the state agency serving as a POC for the NICS Section.  In the event the denying agency is a POC state agency, the appellant can elect to appeal to either the FBI or the POC.

The provisions for appeals are outlined in Title 28, Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), Part 25.10, and Subsection 103(f) and (g) and Section 104 of Public Law 103-159, Sections 103 and 104.

The Safe Explosives Act, enacted in November 2002 as part of the Homeland Security Act, requires that persons who export, ship, cause to be transported, or receive explosives material in either intrastate or interstate commerce must first obtain a federal permit or license after undergoing a NICS background check.  The Safe Explosives Act became effective on May 24, 2003.  Background checks for explosives permits are initiated by the ATF; however, they are processed through the NICS by the NICS Section.

Extensive measures are taken to ensure the security and the integrity of NICS information.  The U.S. Attorney General’s regulations  regarding the privacy and security of the NICS is available on the Internet at <www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/nics.htm>.

NICS Participation

Heading into 2014, the NICS Section provided service to 47,229 FFLs conducting business in 36 states, 5 U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.  The FFLs contact the NICS either telephonically or through the NICS E-Check via the Internet to initiate the required background checks.  The majority of the calls from the FFLs are received and initially processed via one of the three NICS Contracted Call Centers.  For 7 of the 36 states, the NICS Section processes all long gun transactions, while the states conduct their own background checks on handguns and handgun permits.  Additionally, 13 states participate with the NICS in a Full-POC capacity by performing all background checks for their states’ FFLs.

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Alternate Permits

Certain state-issued firearm permits, such as carry concealed weapon permits and permits to purchase, may be qualified by the ATF as permits that suffice in lieu of a NICS background check at the point of sale/transfer.  To qualify for an alternate permit, the applicant, in addition to meeting the conditions required by state law, must undergo a NICS background check as part of the permit-issuing/renewal process.  The issuing state determines if the subject is eligible to receive a firearm permit, including those given alternate permit status by the ATF.  An individual’s presentation of an active alternate permit to an FFL when attempting to purchase a firearm precludes the need for the FFL to initiate the otherwise required NICS background check for the permit holder during the life of the permit.  However, the renewal of an alternate permit requires a background check be conducted via the NICS as part of the permit renewal process.  Permits that qualify in lieu of a NICS background check are required by regulation to be active for no more than a five-year period. 

NICS Availability

In order to operate as designed, the NICS is dependent on the availability of the NCIC and the III.  The unavailability of either of these systems during the background check process can impact the performance of the NICS even though the NICS is fully operational.  The NICS Section, with the ongoing assistance and technical support of the CJIS Division’s Information Technology Management Section, works 24/7 to maximize the availability of the NICS in addition to the NCIC and the III.

For 5 of the 12 months in 2013, the NICS reported a 100 percent level of system availability.  Factoring in the remaining 7 months of NICS service, the average system availability for the NICS in 2013 continued to be 99.89 percent (see chart below).

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Answer Speed

Many types of call center operations have a target goal of answering 80 percent of calls within 20 seconds.  However, the NICS Section’s goal is to answer Transfer Process (firearm background check calls transferred from the NICS Contracted Call Center to the NICS Section’s Legal Instruments Examiners) calls within 9 seconds.  Based on historical data specific to transaction and call volumes, the NICS Section is able to forecast anticipated levels of staffing needed to effectively process incoming work.  In 2013, the NICS Section’s Transfer Process calls were answered expeditiously mid-year.  However, due to a 6-month high call volume, the average yearly rate increased to 71.78 seconds.

The FFLs utilize the NICS by contacting either the NICS Contracted Call Centers via telephone or the Internet via the NICS E-Check.  The customer service representatives at the NICS Contracted Call Centers enter the prospective firearm transferee’s name and descriptive information provided by the FFL into the NICS to initiate the background check search.  If no records are matched by the NICS, the NICS Contracted Call Center staff advises the FFL the transfer may proceed.  If a background check search returns a hit in any of the databases searched during the background check process, the FFL is placed on hold and the call is transferred to the NICS Section at the CJIS Division for review in an attempt to determine the subject’s firearms eligibility status while the FFL is still on the telephone.  With a continued focus on customer service, the NICS Section strives to address all calls transferred from the NICS Contracted Call Centers in an expeditious manner.  Depending on various factors, such as the time of the day, week, or year, the demand placed upon the system and the resources of the NICS Section may all have a direct bearing on service levels.

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The Answer Speed data noted in the above chart does not include transactions retrieved via the NICS E-Check.

Transfer Process Abandonment Rate

As previously stated, the average time a caller waits for their call to be answered is 71.78 seconds.  Depending on the level of incoming calls, the amount of time can fluctuate.  As such, there are times when a caller will prematurely terminate or “abandon” a call.  Many of the circumstances that prompt a caller to terminate a call are not within the control of the NICS Section.  The NICS Section makes every effort to address each call as quickly as possible.  Because all calls are valuable, the NICS Section endeavors to limit the level of abandoned calls to less than 1 percent.  The average for the entire year of 2013 was 1.53 percent due to the high call volume at the beginning of the year.

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The Abandonment Rate data noted in the above chart does not reflect transactions abandoned when a NICS E-Check is initiated.

Immediate Determination Rate (IDR)

The rate of calls immediately proceeded at the NICS Contracted Call Centers plus the rate of transaction determinations (proceed or deny) provided by the NICS Section’s employees while the FFL is still on the telephone comprise the IDR.  The U.S. Attorney General requires the NICS Section to maintain a 90 percent or better rate of immediate determinations.  The IDR in 2013 averaged 91.82 percent.

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The IDR data noted in the above chart does not include the NICS E-Check transaction rate.

Transactions Created in the NICS

The NICS, from November 30, 1998, through December 31, 2013, has conducted a total of 181,567,975 background checks.  In 2013, a total of 21,093,273 background checks were submitted to the NICS.  Of these, a total of 9,315,963 transactions were processed by the NICS Section and the remaining 11,777,310 transactions were processed by state users.

Transactions Created in the NICS.jpg

¹ November 30, 1998, through December 31, 1998.

NICS E-Check

Background checks not initiated at one of the NICS Contracted Call Centers are submitted to the FBI via the NICS E-Check which provides the capability of conducting unassisted background checks electronically through a secure connection.

As of December 31, 2013, an estimated 9,975 FFLs were enrolled with the NICS via the NICS E-Check, and the number of users (FFLs and their employees) accessing the NICS E-Check was an estimated 21,250.  In addition to the FFLs enrolled, just less than ten major retailers conduct firearm background checks via the NICS E-Check.  As of December 31, 2013, a total of 7,360,400 firearms and explosives background checks were processed since June 18, 2002, via the NICS E-Check.  A total of 2,596,745 NICS E-Check transactions were processed in 2013.  Of the 2013 NICS E-Check transactions, 2,498,075 were firearms inquiries.

NICS E-Check.jpg

NICS Peak Season

The NICS Section observes an increase in transaction activity associated with major hunting seasons and year-end holidays.  Each year, since the inception of the NICS, the day after Thanksgiving continues to be a day that the NICS processes a high volume of firearm background checks.  In 2013, the day after Thanksgiving ranked as the sixth highest day, when 144,758 firearms background checks were processed by the NICS (see chart below).  

NICS Peak Season.jpg

During 2013, eight of the top ten weeks the NICS processed a record volume of firearm background checks occurred (see chart below).

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Federal Prohibitors

A deny decision indicates the prospective firearms transferee or another individual with a similar name and/or similar descriptive features was matched with either federally prohibiting criteria or state-prohibiting criteria.  Federal law prohibits, from possessing or receiving a firearm, any person who:

18 U.S.C. §922 (g) (1)

Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;

18 U.S.C. §922 (g) (2)

Is a fugitive from justice;

18 U.S.C. §922 (g) (3)

Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;

18 U.S.C. §922 (g) (4)

Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution;

18 U.S.C. §922 (g) (5)

Is illegally or unlawfully in the United States;

18 U.S.C. §922 (g) (6)

Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;

18 U.S.C. §922 (g) (7)

Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced U.S. citizenship;

18 U.S.C. §922 (g) (8)

Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner;

18 U.S.C. §922 (g) (9)

Has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence;

18 U.S.C. §922 (n)

Is under indictment/information for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.

Federal Denials

When a NICS background check matches a record holder to the prospective firearms transferee, the NICS Section determines if a federal prohibitor exists; however, if a federal prohibitor does not exist, the NICS Section employee processing the background check must further review the record match(es) to determine if any applicable state law renders the prospective firearms transferee prohibited.  From the inception of the NICS on November 30, 1998, through December 31, 2013, the NICS Section has rendered 1,075,781 firearm denials.  Of these, 88,203 denial decisions were provided in 2013.  Historically, as well as specifically in 2013, 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(1) is the leading reason for NICS Section denials.

Federal Denials.jpg

Out of a Hundred Checks

Pursuant to 28 C.F.R., §25.6, based on the information returned in response to a NICS background check, the NICS Section provides either a proceed, a deny, or a delay transaction determination to the FFL.  If the NICS Section cannot determine a proceed or a deny response during the FFL’s initial contact, the transaction is delayed.  From January 1 through        December 31, 2013, approximately 8 percent of all transactions processed were given an initial delay status.

When a NICS transaction is delayed, the Brady Act allows the FFL to legally transfer the firearm if the NICS transaction is not resolved within three business days.  However, the NICS Section continues to search for the information necessary to make a final determination until the transaction purges after 88 days.

Out of a Hundred Checks.png

Firearm Retrieval Referrals

Because of the NICS Section’s commitment to public safety and national security, the search for needed disposition information continues beyond the three business days to provide a determination as stated in the Brady Act.  In some instances, the information is subsequently obtained and a final status determined; however, if the final status (determined after the lapse of three business days) results in a deny decision and the NICS Section is advised by the FFL that the firearm was transferred, then the ATF is notified a prohibited person is in possession of a firearm.  In 2013, the NICS Section referred 3,375 firearm retrieval actions to the ATF.

NICS Appeals and Voluntary Appeal File (VAF)

In 2013, approximately 0.95 percent of the firearm background checks processed by the NICS Section received a final transaction status of deny.  Pursuant to the Brady Act, any person who believes they were wrongfully denied the transfer of a firearm, based on a record returned in response to a NICS background check, can request an appeal of the decision.  An appeal is defined as “a formal procedure to challenge the denial of a firearm transfer.”   Pursuant to 28 C.F.R., §25.2, “an individual may request the reason for the denial from the agency that conducted the check of the NICS (the ‘denying agency,’ which will be either the FBI or the state or local law enforcement agency serving as a POC).”  In the alternative, per 28 C.F.R., §25.2, an individual denied by a POC state can elect to submit an appeal to the NICS Section.

An appellant may submit documentation to determine if an individual is eligible to possess or receive a firearm because some records are not complete or up-to-date.  As a result, eligible firearm transferees may be subject to lengthy delays or receive erroneous denials even after the completion of a successful appeal.

Because the NICS Section encourages a set of fingerprints be submitted with an appeal request as proof of identity.  In cases where the matches are refuted by fingerprints, the subject’s deny decision may be overturned and the transaction proceeded.  However, because the NICS is required to purge all identifying information regarding proceed transactions within 24 hours of notification to the FFL, in many instances the process must be repeated when the same transferee attempts subsequent firearm purchases and is again matched to the same prohibiting record.

The VAF was implemented in July 2004 to prevent subsequent delays and erroneous denials. Because of the availability of the VAF, over 76,000 transactions have received an immediate background check determination and expedited the mission of the NICS Section.  All applicants approved for entry into the VAF receive a Unique Personal Identification Number (UPIN) which must be provided to the FFL during subsequent firearm background checks.  The VAF is checked by the NICS during the background check process only when a UPIN is provided by the FFL.  A total of 28,000 lawful firearm transferees received a UPIN and were entered into the VAF since July 2004.

The NICS Section processes VAF applications and appeal requests in the order they are received.  In 2013, the NICS Section received a total of 31,650 initial VAF applications and appeal requests.  Of those, a total of 1,718 received were submitted by persons denied by POC state agencies. In 2013, the NICS Section’s research resulted in the overturn of 4,576 deny transactions.

The primary reason for the overturned deny decisions in 2013 was the appellant’s fingerprints not matching the fingerprints of the subject of the firearms-disqualifying record.  Another chief reason deny decisions are overturned on appeal pertain to criminal history records that do not contain current and accurate information.

The NICS Section established and implemented the Appeal and VAF Web site in 2011.  By accessing the Web address <www.fbi.gov/nics-appeals>, appellants can electronically begin appealing the reason they were delayed or denied the right to possess or receive a firearm. 

Explosives Background Checks

The Safe Explosives Act requires a NICS background check as part of the licensing process for any person who transports, ships, causes to be transported, or receives explosives materials in either intrastate or interstate commerce.  The NICS Section performs background checks to determine the eligibility of a subject to operate as a Responsible Person (RP) in the explosives industry and for all persons designated as Employee Possessors (EP).
The RP and EP background checks are submitted by the ATF directly, via a batch submission to the NICS E-Check, for processing.  All explosives background check results are forwarded to the ATF.  The ATF makes the final determination as to a subject’s eligibility to receive an explosives permit. 

Since the first explosives background check in 2003, and through December 31, 2013, the NICS Section has processed a total of 837,973 explosives background checks.  Of these, the NICS Section processed 98,688 explosives background checks in 2013 (refer to NICS E-Check chart on page 9).  Of the explosives background checks processed by the NICS Section in 2013, a total of 2,403 were denied.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Background Checks


On September 11, 2009, the NRC issued guidelines for the use of firearms by licensees’ and certificate holders’ security personnel, as authorized by section 161A of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (42 U.S.C. § 2201a).  On June 5, 2013, the Commission issued an order (EA‑13-0092) designating a class of licensed facilities that were eligible to apply to use the authority granted by section 161A.  Section 161A requires a firearms background check for armed security officers at designated NRC licensees.  These licensees applied for the authority provided by Congress under section 161A and, thus, conduct a firearms background check on both current and prospective security officers, whose official duties require access to firearms.

On July 25, 2013, the first NRC Preemption Authority background check was processed by the NICS Section.  The NICS Section processed 1,571 background checks as of December 31, 2013.  It is anticipated the NICS Section will process prospective security officer’s background checks as they are on-boarded by the NRC.

NICS Index

When a NICS background check is conducted, the name and descriptive information of a prospective firearms transferee is searched against the name and descriptive information of subjects of records maintained in the databases searched by the NICS.  In addition to the NCIC and the III, a search of the NICS Index is conducted. 

Prior to April 16, 2012, the NICS Index was a database of records developed by the FBI exclusively for the NICS Section that collects and maintains records voluntarily submitted by local, state, tribal, and federal agencies of persons who are federally prohibited.  On April 16, 2012, the functionality of the NICS Index was expanded to include state-prohibiting records, thereby providing the NICS Section and state users with the ability to effectively and efficiently identify state-prohibiting information at a national level.  All records in the NICS Index are now either state or federally disqualifying and will prohibit the transfer of a firearm. 

Typically, the records submitted to the NICS Index are not available from the NCIC or the III, or may be available but cannot be updated in a manner to readily indicate to a user the existence of a state and federal firearms prohibition.  Making such records available via the NICS Index provides the user with an immediate indication the record, when matched to the prospective firearm transferee, has already been validated to be state and federally disqualifying.  This “pre-validation,” in turn, often eliminates an otherwise lengthy review process where research and evaluation are performed to determine if the record is prohibiting and, ultimately, if the subject is eligible to receive or possess firearms.

Since its implementation, the NICS Section has dedicated numerous resources toward populating the NICS Index, specifically by:

  • training and educating users of the NICS;
  • participating and interacting at various conferences and seminars;
  • establishing NICS Liaison Specialists within the NICS Section who, being knowledgeable regarding the NICS processes, are available to provide real-time assistance;
  • offering legal services and guidance for states in pursuance of making prohibited record information available to the NICS; and
  • offering technical guidance and support.
Active Records in the NICS Index

Advocating the value of making state and federally prohibiting records available at the national level has been a continuing goal of the NICS Section.  In 2013, the number of records submitted to the NICS Index by NICS Section employees and local, state, tribal, and federal agencies increased to an average of over 236,000 per month from the 84,000 per month in 2012.  As of December 31, 2013, a total of 11,166,690 records were maintained in the NICS Index, an increase of 2,842,759 records since December 31, 2012.

Active Records in the NICS Index.jpg

³ The Federally Denied Persons File is compiled of individuals that are predetermined to have firearm prohibitions without listing the specific category. 

Success, Outreach, and the Future

Due to budgetary restraints in 2013, the NICS Section experienced limited training opportunities to assure the long-term growth and viability of the NICS.  The staff and management of the NICS Section believe strategic planning is a key to success.  The NICS Section places great emphasis not only on current goals but also on planning for the future.  Several technical builds were added to the NICS to enhance performance and functionality usage for the NICS Section’s staff and POC states that perform background checks via the system. 

The NICS Section has an outreach initiative to connect with local, state, tribal, and federal agencies regarding the public safety value of sharing criminal history and related records with the NICS.  The NICS Section enhances public safety and national security through information sharing and continues to foster a proactive role regarding the submission of record information to the CJIS systems searched during a NICS background check.  The NICS Section emphasizes the importance of making record information, such as complete criminal history records and prohibiting mental health adjudications, available on a national level, as well as spotlighting the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 (NIAA). 

To accomplish the aforementioned, the NICS Section supports a multifaceted outreach program.  The NICS Section fosters working relationships with various agencies to eliminate the barriers impeding the availability of information at a national level. 

The NICS Section provided guidance and support to NICS users and partners, in addition to various agencies, by:

  • presenting information to various agencies as an ongoing initiative to implement the NIAA.  Numerous meetings were coordinated to fulfill NIAA requirements.
  •  offering its operational expertise to local, state, tribal, and federal agencies;
  • offering technological guidance regarding system and connectivity matters; and
  • providing information to support the sharing of information in a variety of ways; for example:
  • the Internet;
  • the Spring Training Sessions;
  • attending conferences and meetings; and
  • publishing brochures and reports.

As outreach usually includes an educational element, the NICS Section offers continual support to local, state, tribal, and federal agencies by offering a myriad of training opportunities.  The NICS Section identifies, develops, and provides various training and information-sharing regimens to NICS users and numerous law enforcement, judicial, and criminal justice agencies when requested.

The NICS Section offers a catalogue of comprehensive training services specific to topics such as the firearm background check and related processes, the Brady Act, the interpretation and application of federal prohibiting criteria, and the NICS appeal process.  In 2013, the NICS Section provided training sessions to over 1,000 individuals located in nine states.  The NICS Section took advantage of electronic services and expanded training to professionals, such as judges, court clerks, law enforcement officers, state terminal agency controllers, program technicians, federal agents, training instructors, auditing personnel, and sheriffs via Webinars.  The future of the NICS Section’s training is through technologies that allow all parties, the FBI and the states, to remain in their facility. 

As a result of the information-sharing commitment of the NICS Section and the cooperation of numerous local, state, tribal, and federal agencies, over 859,000 dispositions obtained by the NICS Section employees have been posted to criminal history records since NICS began.  Of these, approximately 29,328 dispositions were obtained in 2013.

Additionally, a program total of 213,421 dispositions obtained by NICS Section employees were shared with the states to assist with records maintenance at the state level.  Of these, over 26,600 dispositions were obtained in 2013.

The modernization of NICS was well underway throughout 2013.  Through an information technology (IT) development contract with Accenture Federal Systems, the modernization focuses on delivering updated capabilities, additional flexibility, computer telephony integration (CTI), and greater operational efficiencies.  The development contract is structured around implementation of fully functional IT products in three separate deliveries (phases).  Phase 1 development was nearing completion in December 2013 with testing underway and implementation on target for July 2014.  Phase 1 consists of “Setting the foundation with an upgraded Information Technology Architecture” by focusing on the redesign and refresh of the NICS hardware and software.  Phase 2 is set to be implemented in July 2015 and begins to “Get NICS examiners off the phones” by focusing on automation of operational processes and implementing CTI into the system.  Phase 3 implementation is set for July 2016 and provides “Flexibility to make business efficiency changes at a moment’s notice” by focusing on real-time reporting and servicing multiple transactions that directly affect business efficiencies.

Based on the NICS Section’s knowledge, experience, technology, and past successes, the following two functions continued with success in 2013:

Bioterrorism Risk Assessment Group (BRAG)

Pursuant to the Public Health and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, the FBI is responsible for conducting Security Risk Assessments (SRA) for individuals identified by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as having a need to possess, use, or transfer biological select agents and toxins (BSAT).

The CJIS Division’s BRAG conducts SRAs by receiving names and other identifying information submitted by individuals with access requirements; utilizing electronic databases and other sources of information available regarding the individuals; and consulting with appropriate officials of the HHS and the USDA to ascertain whether certain individuals should be denied access or granted limited access to specified agents.  The BRAG checks against three specific restrictive categories as defined in 42, U.S.C. and nine defined in 18, U.S.C., § 175b(d)(2).

As of December 31, 2013, the BRAG has handled 49,650 SRAs restricting access to biological select agency and toxins to 313.  Specifically, in 2013, the SRAs totaled 3,538, with the number of restrictions totaling 29.   

FBI Public Access Line (PAL)

The FBI established the PAL to serve as the central intake point through which the public may provide information to the FBI about criminal activities and threats to national security.  The PAL has significantly improved the manner in which the FBI serves the public interest by creating a staff dedicated to providing customer service; developing a uniform intake process, to include quality assurance of written reports; and by enabling Special Agents to focus on investigative duties.

The PAL operates 24/7/365 and consists of 58 Customer Service Representatives (CSR), 6 Supervisory Special Agents (SSA), a Supervisory Special Agent Unit Chief, and a Management and Program Analyst.  The CSRs collect information from the public and prepare written reports for the field.  The SSAs monitor calls, step in to address emergency calls, and review criminal referrals and reports of terrorist threats for quality control purposes before sending them to the appropriate field offices for consideration.

The performance of the PAL immediately impacts each FBI field office as it comes on board.  A total of 28 field offices were brought on board:  Albany, Albuquerque, Birmingham, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Dallas, El Paso, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Jackson, Jacksonville, Knoxville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Milwaukee, New Haven, Norfolk, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Springfield.  The PAL is responsible for the Major Case Contact Center, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the FBI Switchboard. 

Since the inception of the PAL, a total of 373,253 calls have been handled, saving field offices 26,153 work hours.