FBI: 2nd Highest Number of Gun Transactions Processed Through NICS System in 2018

By Melanie Arter | March 13, 2019 | 12:28pm EDT
Christine Halvorsen, acting assistant director of the FBI’s criminal justice information services division (Screenshot)

(CNSNews.com) – The calendar year of 2018 had the second highest number of gun transactions on record, and the number of gun background checks this past Black Friday was among the highest volume days on record with more than 182,000 transactions, an FBI official told a House Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday.

During her opening statement, Christine Halvorsen, acting assistant director of the FBI’s criminal justice information services division, said that since 2010, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) experienced “substantial increases in the volume of background checks.”

“This past Black Friday was among the highest volume days in the NICS history. In that one day, the NICS processed over 182,000 transactions. In calendar year (CY) 2018, the NICS processed 26.2 million transactions with only CY 2016 exceeding that volume with 27.5 million transactions,” Halvorsen wrote in her written testimony to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies.

NICS is a computerized system used to determine whether someone is disqualified from buying or owning a firearm.



When a firearms dealer initiates a gun background check, the buyer’s name is checked with three national databases: National Crime Information Center (NCIC), Interstate Identification Index (III), and the NICS Indices.

The dealer is told to proceed with the gun sale if “no descriptive matches or hits” to the buyer is contained in these databases, as is the case in nearly 70 percent of NICS transactions handled by the FBI.

However, if there are any potentially prohibiting records returned, the FBI does a manual review “to determine whether “the record demonstrates a prohibition to firearms possession,” Halvorsen explained in her written testimony.

“There are three possible outcomes from this review: proceed (i.e., the record does not establish a prohibition and the transaction can proceed), deny (i.e., the record demonstrates a firearms prohibition), or delay,” she wrote.

“A delay response indicates the information supplied by the prospective firearm transferee has matched a record searched by the NICS and requires additional research before a final determination can be made. Following a delay decision, if the transaction is not resolved within the allowed three-business day time frame,” it’s up to the gun dealer to decide whether to proceed with the transaction.

The FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division NICS Program “continues to work on the case in an effort to resolve it. When additional information is required on a matching record but cannot be found, the transaction remains open until either the information is provided or 88 days have passed,” Halvorsen wrote.

“If prohibiting information is provided following the passage of the three-business-day time frame, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is notified for retrieval of the firearm,” shea added.

Once 88 days have passed, the transaction is purged from the NICS system.

“Despite the increased demands, NICS staff provides exceptional customer service around-the clock to firearms dealers across the country, while striving to achieve an ‘immediate determination’ rate of 90 percent to the firearms dealer that permits the dealer to immediately transfer the firearm,” Halvorsen wrote.


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