So, you just received a “denial” message while trying to purchase a gun. You may be asking yourself, “what does this mean?” or “what do I do now?” The answer to those questions is, it depends. You may have never had any issues purchasing a gun before. Or maybe you had felony but have since had it expunged. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why an individual may be denied when purchasing a firearm, even if you are “legally” able to purchase one. While this blog doesn’t cover the entire realm of NICS Appeals, it does look at three basic tips that could help you along the appeal process.
What is NICS? Why is the FBI involved? The first tip is simply to provide a little background information on NICS. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (or “NICS”) is a system maintained by the FBI to determine whether a prospective firearm purchaser is prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms.1 While you may be aware that State governments have regulations that make possessing or purchasing a firearm illegal for certain individuals, so too does the federal government. The federal government has its own regulations determining whether or not an individual may lawfully possess a firearm. Sometimes these federal prohibitions align with the State prohibitions, sometimes they are more stringent, and other times they may be more lenient. What is important to know is just because you may be legally allowed to purchase a firearm according to State law, there may still be a federal prohibition that prevents you from purchasing one. Retain an attorney familiar with firearms law to help you determine what to do next.
Obtain NTN or STN. Even if you are lawfully allowed to possess a firearm, mistakes happen, especially when there are two separate governmental entities involved. As such, you will most likely have to appeal the denial. The first step in appealing a NICS denial is to obtain your NICS Transaction Number (“NTN”) or State Transaction Number (“STN”). Your NTN or STN is a unique number assigned to each valid firearm-related background check.2 To obtain your NTN or STN you must contact the appropriate law enforcement agency who initiated your firearm-related background check. Obtaining your NTN or STN is crucial because no appeal process can begin without one or the other. The selling dealer can provide this to you and you have to have it to proceed with a NICS appeal.
Fingerprints and Certified Court Documents. While not technically necessary to begin an appeal process, it is beneficial to get your fingerprints taken to send in with the appeal. This saves time and money, as it allows NICS to easily identify you if there has been a mistake, say another individual with the same name. Your fingerprints are unique and may help cut out some of the confusion. Fingerprints can be taken at most, if not all, local law enforcement agencies. The fingerprints must be on an official form approved by the government and done in a certain way. Another item to have prepared (if applicable to you) are certified copies of any Court documents showing that you have had your prior conviction expunged and are eligible to possess a firearm. This part goes back to the two separate governments working independently of each other. If you have had a conviction expunged and are eligible to purchase and possess a firearm in the State, chances are the NICS database wasn’t updated. Having certified copies of any applicable Court documents to send in with your appeal will be beneficial and time saving for you down the road.
While NICS appeals are overall very technical, and consequently very fact-sensitive, these general tips are a good place to start. Having a skilled attorney who is experienced in the firearm industry is critical. The attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. are active in all aspects of firearms law ranging from representing manufacturers to helping individuals with NICS appeals. This blog is written for general educational purposes. It is not intended as legal advice, nor a solicitation for services. It is advertising material.