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DOJ Report Shows 'Fix NICS' Is Working: Six Million Convictions Added to Background Check System

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

Attorney General William Barr on Thursday released the first-ever semi-annual report on the Fix NICS Act, which passed Congress last year. Under Fix NICS, federal agencies are required to report criminal convictions to the Department of Justice (DOJ) so those convictions can be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is used for firearms transactions.

The head of each federal department or agency is required to submit convictions to the Attorney twice a year. Convictions that took place from January 1 to June 30 have to be submitted by July 31. Convictions that took place between July 1 and December 31 are to be submitted by January 31 of the following year.

In addition to semi-annual submissions, federal departments and agencies are required to fill out a certification saying their records are accurate and up-to-date.

According to Barr's first report, the Fix NICS Act is already having a positive impact. Over six million convictions have been added to the three national databases used during a background check, which is a 6.2 percent increase. 

A few examples of agency progress include:

• The military continues to increase its record entry into the NICS Indices for multiple categories. From May 2019 through July 2019, the military branches enhanced their record reporting by increasing entries into the Controlled Substance category by 10 percent, with an overall increase in multiple categories of 2.63 percent.

• The U.S. Postal Service – OIG rose from 25 entries on January 31, 2019, to 171 entries on March 31, 2019, primarily in the Felony category. Its entries tripled in the next four months, bringing its total entries to 519 as of July 31, 2019.

• The U.S. Customs and Border Protection entered approximately 13 million illegal/unlawful alien records into the NICS Indices in October 2019.

• The Department of State indicated it is reporting all fugitive from justice records, but is looking for ways to enhance their submission. Specifically, the agency plans to automate entries of warrants into the NCIC, conduct mandatory case reviews to ensure accuracy, and continue training efforts related to NICS reporting requirements.

The NICS Indices, one of the three databases, saw a 15 percent increase in records once those six million convictions were added.

The number of Firearm Retrieval Referrals (FRRs), where a prohibited possessor is able to purchase a firearm because the background check wasn't completed in three business days due to incomplete records, decreased each month. Those additional convictions have an average monthly decline of 102 FFRs.

 “An effective NICS system is critical to ensuring that we keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them,” Barr said in a statement. “I am encouraged by the results of this initial report. Fix NICS implementation is still in its infancy, yet already we’re seeing great strides being made across government – state, tribal, and federal law enforcement - to strengthen the NICS. Given the preliminary data, it is clear that the Fix NICS Act is well on its way to doing exactly what it was intended to do – make the NICS better.”

Having convictions added to the database not only keeps firearms out of the hands of criminals, assuming they're attempting to purchase a firearm at a gun store, but it also benefits gun owners. The addition of these convictions have given Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) immediate determinations about a person's eligibility. There was an average increase of 0.51 percent each month of immediate determinations.

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