GM 14-092

Tribal Criminal Justice Agencies Gain Access to Federal Criminal Background Check Database

On November 20, 2014, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) published a final rule in the FEDERAL REGISTER to allow tribal criminal justice agencies access to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in order to conduct background checks on prospective gun buyers. The rule goes into effect on January 20, 2015. The new rule gives tribal criminal justice agencies an important tool in their efforts to improve safety on Indian reservations and reduce violent crime. A copy of the final rule is attached.

The new rule provides tribal criminal justice agencies with access to the NICS system, which was created pursuant to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (Brady Act). The NICS is a computerized background check system designed to give federally licensed firearms manufacturers, dealers, or importers nearly instantaneous information on whether an individual is prevented from acquiring a firearm. Individuals may be denied the purchase of a firearm for a number of reasons including the commission of a felony, being the subject of a restraining order, or being a fugitive.

The new rule clarifies that participation is voluntary, meaning that tribal criminal justice agencies are not required to use the NICS but may choose to do so if they wish. Use of the NICS is limited to conducting background checks for the issuance of permits or licenses of firearms. We note that the 2010 Tribal Law and Order Act authorizes tribal criminal justice agencies to access federal criminal information databases.
28 U.S.C. § 534(d).

Please let us know if we may provide additional information regarding this rule.