Home News Speeches Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of NICS
  • Robert S. Mueller, III
  • Director
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • National Instant Criminal Background Check System 10th Anniversary
  • Clarksburg, West Virginia
  • April 08, 2009

Good morning. It is great to be here. I want to thank Governor Manchin, Peter Hamm, and Lawrence Keane for joining us today. Thank you for your friendship and support of the FBI.

And welcome again to our friends from the Justice Department and the ATF and to our industry partners and partners in state and local law enforcement. We are happy to have you with us to mark this occasion.

We come together today from a variety of different organizations and professions. But we all share a common goal: allowing lawful purchases to occur while ensuring that guns and explosives do not fall into the wrong hands.

Every time NICS processes a background check, it helps us realize that goal. I want to thank all of you for your support of NICS. It may be managed by the FBI, but it is truly a collaborative effort.

We are grateful for your assistance, cooperation, and partnership and glad you are with us today. But in a sense, NICS itself is today’s guest of honor.

Every FBI employee here today—and everyone who works closely with the Bureau—knows that we are fond of acronyms. We even have an online database just for FBI acronyms. It goes on for many, many pages. But only one of our acronyms contains the word “instant.” And that is what is so remarkable about NICS.

Imagine if 15 or 20 years ago, someone had said the FBI would have to create a system by which federal firearms licensees could obtain a criminal background check on a customer within hours or days. We might have declared it an impossible task.

Yet here we stand, celebrating the 10th anniversary of a system that does just that—but within seconds. Because of NICS, "instant" checks are not only possible, they have become routine.

But they are not something we should take for granted. NICS is an exceptional tool and has produced exceptional results.

Over the past 10 years, NICS has processed over 100 million background checks—indeed, we reached the 100 million milestone this past Saturday. We continue to refine the system, so that it is faster, more accurate, and able to provide unprecedented customer service.

And it is not a stretch to say that NICS has made our communities and our nation safer. Let me give you just two examples.

On September 20, 2004, NICS processed its 50 millionth transaction—and turned up an outstanding warrant for aggravated assault. The individual was denied, and the information was immediately shared with the Dallas County Sheriff's Office. Just three days later, the individual was arrested.

As another example, when an individual in DeKalb County, Georgia, tried to buy a gun in April 2005, the NICS check revealed two arrest warrants for him in New York. This man had jumped bail while awaiting trial in two rape cases. He had evaded law enforcement for years by changing his name and living overseas. But when he used his social security number to apply for the gun, red flags went up. The information went to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the man was arrested.

And the story does not end there. When authorities ran a DNA comparison, they were able to link the man to nine other unsolved sexual assaults in Maryland and New Jersey. Thanks to NICS, justice would finally be served.

There are many such examples, and as technology and legislation evolve, there is no doubt there will be many more.

And as a side note, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge Governor Manchin for another technological milestone. Last month, the state of West Virginia launched a new electronic domestic violence registry that will speed up the flow of information from the courts to law enforcement regarding protection orders. By this fall, courts will scan protection orders into the system within minutes after judges sign them. It will give police officers instant access to information regarding alleged abusers—information that until now has taken hours or even days to make it into the NCIC. This real-time information sharing will translate to real protection for victims of domestic violence.

We in the FBI applaud your efforts. This innovation is exactly what the law enforcement community needs.

NICS is another model of technological innovation and efficiency. But it is important to remember that technology does not simply appear out of nowhere. It does not refresh or repair or refine itself. It depends upon the people behind it—in this case, the men and women in the NICS Section, many of whom are here today.

They work around the clock to provide this critical service to our partners. Evenings, weekends, and holidays are par for the course for these employees. It is their dedication and innovation that have made NICS successful. I want to personally thank you for your work and for your dedication to the FBI.

And I also want to thank everyone who has played a role in making NICS a success. Alexander Graham Bell once said that, "Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.” This is certainly true of NICS — and little did he know that his great invention would someday become the primary tool by which NICS does its work.

Thank you all again for your hard work and your partnership, and congratulations on your achievement.

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