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Denied a Firearm Purchase? You Might Be Able to Make an FBI NICS Appeal

Today in the Findley & Rogers Law Blog we’re looking at FBI NICS appeals, as well as the common NICS denial reasons that cause people to fail their background checks.

Many people aren’t aware of the information on their record that can cause them to fail a background check. People also don’t realize that, in many cases, these problems can be cleared up and their firearm rights can be fully restored.

At Findley & Rogers, we can help you restore your firearm rights, as well as submit a successful FBI NICS appeal if your first NICS check fails. With us, you don’t have to worry about the complexity and bureaucracy of the legal system. Our team of attorneys has many years of experience helping ordinary citizens like you successfully exercise your constitutional right to bear arms.


Reasons Behind NICS Denials

Mandatory Background Checks

According to Washington State carry laws, anyone who wants to purchase a firearm must pass a mandatory background check. This background check includes screenings against the following databases:

  • The Federal NICS Database
  • The Washington State Patrol Database
  • The Department of Social and Health Services Database
  • Other State and Local Databases (If Applicable)

NICS is the biggest of these databases. However, the information in any of these databases can get messy and can include information that’s out of date, contradictory, or flat-out wrong. This can sometimes cause background checks to be wrongly delayed or even outright denied.

Faulty NICS denial reasons are usually pretty easy to fix with help from a gun rights attorney who knows what they’re doing and is familiar with the expungement process (if needed). Prior to submitting your FBI NICS appeal, we can help you clean up and verify your record (including expunging criminal records if need be) so that any misinformation appearing to the NICS is corrected.

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What Is NICS?

Before we talk about FBI NICS appeals, let’s take a look at NICS itself, since many people don’t understand what it is or how it works. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is a federal computer database used to screen anyone who wants to buy a gun.

In Washington, a NICS check is required if you want to purchase a firearm or obtain a firearm permit.

The NICS database was developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in collaboration with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) — as well as state and local law enforcement agencies — to provide fast turnarounds on background checks.

Assassination Attempt on President Reagan

NICS was created in the aftermath of the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The assailant, John Hinckley Jr., had purchased a handgun using falsified information, and there had been no federal system in place to conduct a background check on him. Had such a check been conducted, it would have revealed Hinckley’s previous mental health issues. (Indeed, some of our clients who come to us to file an FBI NICS appeal have failed a background check due to prior mental health issues that no longer affect them.)

The assassination attempt on a president caused a public uproar. Congress, moving with unusual speed, managed to pass a bill in only twelve years: the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, more commonly known as the Brady Act. The law was named for James Brady, the White House Press Secretary to President Reagan. Brady was wounded and permanently disabled during the assassination attempt.

It took until 1998 to actually launch NICS, during which time the Brady Act survived a Supreme Court challenge mostly intact. Ever since then, purchasing a firearm has involved passing a NICS background check.

A man searches on his computer how to go forward with a FBI NICS appeal

How to Apply for a NICS Background Check

In Washington, whether you’re buying a gun (or otherwise taking possession of a gun) from a licensed firearms dealer or a private seller — or you’re applying for a CPL — you have to go through a background check.

This requires you to fill out ATF Form 4473. Filling out this form incorrectly or incompletely is another common reason for a NICS denial. On your end, your work is finished: You just have to complete the mandatory waiting period.

What at the Most Common NICS Denial Reasons?

The vast majority of NICS background checks are actually approved. In fact, less than 1 percent of NICS checks are denied. Most denials that do happen are due to the applicant having a previous felony conviction.

However, there are other reasons for a NICS denial, too. To better understand your chances of successfully filing an FBI NICS appeal, first, you have to understand why a background check might be denied in the first place.

Correctable Errors

We mentioned two error-based reasons NICS denials happen already:

  • Database Error: Incorrect or out-of-date information in NICS.
  • Paperwork Error: Incorrect or incomplete information on your ATF form.

These are both correctable errors, and correcting them is likely to result in a successful FBI NICS appeal.

Similarity to a Disqualified Individual

Sometimes, your name or personal details will be a close match to someone in the system who is banned from possessing a firearm. This will most likely result in a delay to your NICS check, not an outright denial, as it requires an individual review of your application.

If, somehow, your background check is denied on this grounds, we can help you submit a successful FBI NICS appeal.

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Valid Reasons for a NICS Denial

All other NICS denials have a valid reason. To successfully appeal these FBI NICS denials, you will need to deal with the underlying problem:

  • Felony Convictions: As we mentioned, having a felony conviction on your record is the most common NICS denial reason. This includes any criminal conviction for a crime punishable by 1-year imprisonment or longer (even if you did not serve a year in prison).
  • Drug Convictions or Addiction: Most drug convictions can cause you to fail a NICS check, as can documented evidence of a drug addiction. This is another common NICS denial reason, and if the issue happened a long time ago, we can usually help you clear it up and submit a new FBI NICS appeal successfully.
  • Mental Illness or Institutionalization: For the purposes of your gun rights, having a history of mental illness or institutionalization on your record is often worse than a felony conviction. Provided you have since recovered, Findley & Rogers should be able to help you restore your rights under Washington State law, but the Federal government may not recognize this restoration of rights. This is a complex issue and worth discussing with an attorney, before making any decisions.
  • Domestic Violence, Harassment, and Stalking: If you fail a background check for any reason, including DV issues, the person conducting your background check is required to report you to law enforcement. So if you’ve had an issue like this in your past, it is crucial to get good legal advice before proceeding. Note that “domestic violence” situations in Washington state can also occur between roommates who are living together but are not romantically involved.
  • Facing Criminal Charges: If you’ve been indicted for a crime that carries a penalty of 1-year in prison or more, you will fail your NICS check. In these situations, you cannot proceed with a gun purchase. You will have to wait. However, if you were indicted and the charges were withdrawn, but are still causing you to fail your background check, we may be able to help you with your FBI NICS appeal.
  • Fugitive Status: You probably think of a “fugitive” as a hardened criminal actively fleeing from the law, but in some cases, a person can end up with a warrant for their arrest without even realizing it. In these situations, your FBI NICS appeal will have to wait, but we can refer you to an attorney who can help you get control of your situation.
  • Other Reasons: Some of the more uncommon reasons for a NICS denial include being an undocumented immigrant, being present in the country under a non-immigrant visa, getting a dishonorable discharge from the military, and renouncing your US citizenship.

File Your FBI NICS Appeal with Findley & Rogers

The FBI NICS appeal process can be attempted without an attorney’s aid; however, without a good understanding of what went wrong with your original background check, and the necessary legal experience and knowledge of the NICS system to actually fix the problem, you may find it difficult to navigate this process on your own.

That’s why Findley & Rogers is here to help you. We can take care of the most common reasons for a NICS denial, and our legal services will help you through the entire process of restoring your gun rights, including:

Contact Findley & Rogers today for a free consultation to discuss your case and learn more about your options. We are here to help ordinary folks like you take back your firearm rights!