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Gun Control: Opportunities to Close Loopholes in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

GAO-02-720 July 12, 2002

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) relies largely on searching state criminal history records to prevent the sale of firearms to prohibited persons. The states' firearms-related laws and procedures may affect how such records are used under NICS to prevent the sale of firearms to persons who are ineligible under applicable federal and state law. Each of the six states that GAO surveyed offered at least some mechanism by which individuals who were ineligible to possess firearms because of a criminal conviction could have those rights restored. The six states' criteria for restoration typically require a certain waiting period before application for relief, and persons convicted of some prior offenses are not eligible for restoration. In 26 states, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has determined that a concealed carry permit may exempt the permit holder from a NICS background check when purchasing a firearm. As such, it is important that permit applicants be carefully screened and permit holders monitored to ensure they are eligible to possess firearms. The six states used various approaches to help make domestic violence misdemeanor convictions easier to identify in criminal history records by enacting domestic violence criminal statutes and flagging domestic violence offenses in their criminal history records. Despite these efforts, in the first three years of NICS operations, over 2,800 domestic violence offenders were able to purchase firearms without being identified as such by NICS.
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Publication:General Accounting Office Reports & Testimony
Date:Aug 1, 2002
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