28 CFR 25.6: Accessing records in the system.
FFLs may initiate a NICS background check only in connection with a proposed firearm transfer as required by the Brady Act. FFLs are strictly prohibited from initiating a NICS background check for any other purpose. The process of accessing the NICS for the purpose of conducting a NICS background check is initiated by an FFL's contacting the FBI NICS Operations Center (by telephone or electronic dial-up access) or a POC. FFLs in each state will be advised by the ATF whether they are required to initiate NICS background checks with the NICS Operations Center or a POC and how they are to do so.
FFLs may contact the NICS Operations Center by use of a toll-free telephone number, only during its regular business hours. In addition to telephone access, toll-free electronic dial-up access to the NICS will be provided to FFLs after the beginning of the NICS operation. FFLs with electronic dial-up access will be able to contact the NICS 24 hours each day, excluding scheduled and unscheduled downtime.
(1) The FBI NICS Operations Center, upon receiving an FFL telephone or electronic dial-up request for a background check, will:
(i) Verify the FFL Number and code word;
(ii) Assign a NICS Transaction Number (NTN) to a valid inquiry and provide the NTN to the FFL;
(iii) Search the relevant databases (i.e., NICS Index, NCIC, III) for any matching records; and
(iv) Provide the following NICS responses based upon the consolidated NICS search results to the FFL that requested the background check:
(A) “Proceed” response, if no disqualifying information was found in the NICS Index, NCIC, or III.
(B) “Delayed” response, if the NICS search finds a record that requires more research to determine whether the prospective transferee is disqualified from possessing a firearm by Federal or state law. A “Delayed” response to the FFL indicates that the firearm transfer should not proceed pending receipt of a follow-up “Proceed” response from the NICS or the expiration of three business days (exclusive of the day on which the query is made), whichever occurs first. (Example: An FFL requests a NICS check on a prospective firearm transferee at 9:00 a.m. on Friday and shortly thereafter receives a “Delayed” response from the NICS. If state offices in the state in which the FFL is located are closed on Saturday and Sunday and open the following Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and the NICS has not yet responded with a “Proceed” or “Denied” response, the FFL may transfer the firearm at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.)
(C) “Denied” response, when at least one matching record is found in either the NICS Index, NCIC, or III that provides information demonstrating that receipt of a firearm by the prospective transferee would violate 18 U.S.C. 922 or state law. The “Denied” response will be provided to the requesting FFL by the NICS Operations Center during its regular business hours.
(2) None of the responses provided to the FFL under paragraph (c)(1) of this section will contain any of the underlying information in the records checked by the system.
In states where a POC is designated to process background checks for the NICS, FFLs will contact the POC to initiate a NICS background check. Both ATF and the POC will notify FFLs in the POC's state of the means by which FFLs can contact the POC. The NICS will provide POCs with electronic access to the system virtually 24 hours each day through the NCIC communication network. Upon receiving a request for a background check from an FFL, a POC will:
(1) Verify the eligibility of the FFL either by verification of the FFL number or an alternative POC-verification system;
(2) Enter a purpose code indicating that the query of the system is for the purpose of performing a NICS background check in connection with the transfer of a firearm; and (3) Transmit the request for a background check via the NCIC interface to the NICS.
Upon receiving a request for a NICS background check, POCs may also conduct a search of available files in state and local law enforcement and other relevant record systems, and may provide a unique State-Assigned Transaction Number (STN) to a valid inquiry for a background check.
When the NICS receives an inquiry from a POC, it will search the relevant databases (i.e., NICS Index, NCIC, III) for any matching record(s) and will provide an electronic response to the POC. This response will consolidate the search results of the relevant databases and will include the NTN. The following types of responses may be provided by the NICS to a state or local agency conducting a background check:
(1) No record response, if the NICS determines, through a complete search, that no matching record exists.
(2) Partial response, if the NICS has not completed the search of all of its records. This response will indicate the databases that have been searched (i.e., III, NCIC, and/or NICS Index) and the databases that have not been searched. It will also provide any potentially disqualifying information found in any of the databases searched. A follow-up response will be sent as soon as all the relevant databases have been searched. The follow-up response will provide the complete search results.
(3) Single matching record response, if all records in the relevant databases have been searched and one matching record was found.
(4) Multiple matching record response, if all records in the relevant databases have been searched and more than one matching record was found.
Generally, based on the response(s) provided by the NICS, and other information available in the state and local record systems, a POC will:
(1) Confirm any matching records; and
(2) Notify the FFL that the transfer may proceed, is delayed pending further record analysis, or is denied. “Proceed” notifications made within three business days will be accompanied by the NTN or STN traceable to the NTN. The POC may or may not provide a transaction number (NTN or STN) when notifying the FFL of a “Denied” response.
POCs shall transmit electronic NICS transaction determination messages to the FBI for the following transactions: open transactions that are not resolved before the end of the operational day on which the check is requested; denied transactions; transactions reported to the NICS as open and later changed to proceed; and denied transactions that have been overturned. The FBI shall provide POCs with an electronic capability to transmit this information. These electronic messages shall be provided to the NICS immediately upon communicating the POC determination to the FFL. For transactions where a determination has not been communicated to the FFL, the electronic messages shall be communicated no later than the end of the operational day on which the check was initiated. With the exception of permit checks, newly created POC NICS transactions that are not followed by a determination message (deny or open) before the end of the operational day on which they were initiated will be assumed to have resulted in a proceed notification to the FFL. The information provided in the POC determination messages will be maintained in the NICS Audit Log described in § 25.9(b). The NICS will destroy its records regarding POC determinations in accordance with the procedures detailed in § 25.9(b).
FFLs are required to record the system response, whether provided by the FBI NICS Operations Center or a POC, on the appropriate ATF form for audit and inspection purposes, under 27 CFR part 178 recordkeeping requirements. The FBI NICS Operations Center response will always include an NTN and associated “Proceed,” “Delayed,” or “Denied” determination. POC responses may vary as discussed in paragraph (g) of this section. In these instances, FFLs will record the POC response, including any transaction number and/or determination.
(j) Access to the NICS Index for purposes unrelated to NICS background checks required by the Brady Act.
Access to the NICS Index for purposes unrelated to NICS background checks pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 922(t) shall be limited to uses for the purpose of:
(1) Providing information to Federal, state, or local criminal justice agencies in connection with the issuance of a firearm-related or explosives-related permit or license, including permits or licenses to possess, acquire, or transfer a firearm, or to carry a concealed firearm, or to import, manufacture, deal in, or purchase explosives; or
(2) Responding to an inquiry from the ATF in connection with a civil or criminal law enforcement activity relating to the Gun Control Act (18 U.S.C. Chapter 44) or the National Firearms Act (26 U.S.C. Chapter 53).
[Order No. 2186-98, 63 FR 58307, Oct. 30, 1998, as amended by Order No. 2727-2004, 69 FR 43900, July 23, 2004]