The United States has a long history of gun ownership, with millions of Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. However, owning a firearm comes with great responsibility. That’s why the federal government requires background checks for anyone who wants to purchase a gun. The background check aims to ensure that firearms do not fall into the wrong hands.
Here’s what you should know about how background checks work when you want to purchase a firearm.
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is a federal database managed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The NICS background check is required for most individuals purchasing firearms from a federally licensed dealer. When a buyer fills out the ATF Form 4473, the dealer contacts the NICS to perform the background check. The process takes only a few minutes, and most buyers are approved almost immediately.
What the background check looks for
The NICS background check examines several databases, including the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the Interstate Identification Index (III), and the NICS Index. These databases contain information about criminal histories, mental health records and other relevant data that could disqualify an individual from purchasing a firearm, such as:
- Criminal History: The NICS background check examines the NCIC database to determine if the buyer has a criminal record that disqualifies them from owning a gun. The buyer may be disqualified if convicted of a felony, certain misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence or have a restraining order against them.
- Mental Health Records: The NICS background check examines the III database to determine if the buyer has a mental health history that disqualifies them from owning a gun. Buyers who were involuntarily committed to a mental institution or adjudicated as mentally incompetent are generally prohibited from owning firearms.
- Immigration Status: The NICS background check also examines the NICS Index to determine if the buyer is in the country legally. Non-citizens in the United States illegally or convicted of certain crimes are prohibited from owning firearms.
If you are thinking about buying a gun, it is crucial to understand the background check process. You can also check with your local law enforcement agency to see if you have any criminal records that would prohibit you from owning a gun.
The NICS background check examines several databases to determine whether a buyer can purchase a firearm. In New Mexico, all private sales of firearms must go through a licensed dealer, and there is a provision that allows some individuals with certain misdemeanor convictions to petition to restore their gun rights.