Will the Brady Law Work After Instant
How Instant Check is Supposed to Work
The Department of Justice describes the architecture of the new background check system as "monumental." This vast database system is known as "NICS," or the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. This section and the chart below provide a brief summary of how it is supposed to work. More extensive information is available from the Violence Policy Center.
Under the new rules for the Brady Law, before a purchase may proceed, a federally licensed firearms dealer must conduct a background check. In most cases these checks will initially be conducted over the telephone, although some high-volume dealers will use computers and modems.
In about a third of the states, some or all queries will be directed to a state's designated "point of contact," or "POC," which will then conduct a background check directly through NICS. Most states, however, have chosen not to participate in the system, or have chosen to designate POCs only for selected queries (for example, for handgun purchases but not long gun purchases). In these instances, the gun dealer will contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation directly, and the FBI will run the check through NICS.
NICS links together two existing databases and one new database:
After conducting the Instant Check, the FBI or the state POC will respond with one of three answers, sometimes referred to as "green light, red light, and yellow light." No other information is transmitted.
- National Crime Information Center (NCIC): An existing federal database primarily used to track fugitives, stolen property, etc.
- Interstate Identification Index (III, or "Triple-Eye"): An existing federally managed database which is essentially a national index of databases maintained separately by each of the states. This is the source of most information about felony convictions.
- NICS Index: A new database which gives access to certain relevant federal records (for example, dishonorable discharges).
- "Proceed"�The dealer may complete the sale immediately.
- "Denied"�The dealer may not complete the sale. The purchaser may then appeal the denial administratively to the FBI or the state (whoever conducted the check), or the purchaser may sue in federal court.
- "Delayed"�The dealer must put the sale on hold because there is ambiguous information which requires further scrutiny. Authorities have up to three state government business days (in the state where the sale is conducted) to follow up and reach a final determination about whether the sale should be authorized.
Go to next section, Potential Problems With Instant Check's Architecture
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