FBI: Gun check flaws lie with reporting, not system

FBI: Gun check flaws lie with reporting, not system

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

Over the past six months, gun dealers nationwide sold about 1,687 firearms to buyers who should have been disqualified after their names were submitted for a review by the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

The problem, however, lies not with the background check system, FBI officials said. It lies in the way law enforcement organizations report crime history information to the bureau, FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said.

NICS, developed by Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego for the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, reviews crime history data to determine whether federally licensed firearms dealers can sell a gun to an individual.

Congress in 1993 mandated the checks and the creation of the system under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. The FBI brought the system online in November.

NICS runs on an SGI Challenge I server with eight 200-MHz CPUs, 4G of RAM and 120G of RAID storage. The checking application runs under SGI Irix and queries an Oracle7 Release 7.3.3 database. The system has interfaces with the National Crime Information Center and the Interstate Identification Index systems so federal, state and local authorities can conduct the searches.

The system will report a disqualification for applicants who received dishonorable discharges from the armed forces, have criminal convictions on their records, have convictions for controlled substance use, have been committed to mental institutions, are illegal aliens or have renounced their U.S. citizenship.

But sometimes the information that triggers a disqualification is not in the FBI's systems.

'States are responsible for the data; that's not our data,' said Kimberly Del Greco of the FBI NICS Operation Center in Moundsville, W.Va. 'But states are not mandated or required to follow a specific process.'

The FBI each day receives about 20,000 records to add to its criminal databases, but even so it seems the databases do not receive all the information they should, FBI officials said. Federal authorities do not have a mandate or authorization to rummage through state records and retrieve additional data, Bresson said.'

The FBI prefers that states conduct their own searches because they can be more thorough, Del Greco said. But only 15 states conduct full searches, he said. Lack of funding and personnel as well as conflicting state laws may also hamstring states that try to collect and maintain data for the background checks, Del Greco said.

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