The federal law calls for a background check for firearms purchase/transfer from FFLs across all states. Failure is considered a willful violation under Biden’s zero-tolerance policy and could get your FFL revoked.
Suppose a firearm buyer is not prohibited under the ATF regulations or lacks a qualifying National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICs) exemption; an FFL is free to proceed with the background check through a call-in or online submission of the background check details and await a response before transfer.
A typical check could take anywhere between a few minutes to days depending on several factors such as:
- State-required waiting time
- Submission method
- The agency performing the check
- Number of people waiting, and;
- The time you initiated the check
When the NICS response finally comes in, the FFL is required to process them, update Form 4473 and ascertain whether he can proceed with the firearm transfer.
To avoid getting your firearms business at risk, you need to understand all the NICS responses to act appropriately. Read on to learn more about the response at each stage and how to handle it.
NICS or any state agency conducting a background check usually gives four responses at the initial stage, including proceed, denied, canceled, and delayed. Some states, however, may use different terms altogether, but the state’s response should correspond with that on Form 4473.
If you get a “proceed” response from NICS, you may proceed with the sale or transfer of the firearm. This initial response means the buyer is eligible to own the gun as no prohibitions were found against them.
The FFL is required to put in writing the date transferee/buyer’s information was sent to NICS/POC (27. a), the transaction numbers (NTN/STN) (27. b), and the “proceed” response (27. c) in the form 4473 during the transaction.
An initial “denied” response from NICS means you cannot proceed with the transaction. The buyer may have a state or federal prohibition in such a case.
Similarly, the FFL must note down the date the transferee/buyer’s information was sent to NICS/POC (27. a), the transaction numbers (NTN/STN) (27. b), and the “denied” response (27. c) in the form 4473.
In rare cases, FFLs receive a “canceled” initial response which means they can’t proceed with the firearm transaction. In this scenario, the licensee is barred from initiating the firearm transfer since they didn’t initiate the background check according to the ATF/FBI regulations.
Another possibility is that the buyer’s submitted information was invalid.
The FFL must note down the date the transferee/buyer’s information was sent to NICS/POC (27. a), the transaction numbers (NTN/STN) (27. b), and the “canceled” response (27. c) in the form 4473.
An initial “delayed” response restricts FFLs from proceeding with the firearm transaction, awaiting a follow-up response. You could also get this response after 3 business days after submission of the buyer’s details.
The licensee is required to hold on to the transfer as NICS may need more time and additional research to verify the buyer’s background. If the FBI can’t decide within three business days, the FFL can transfer the firearm if not prohibited by their state law.
The FFL is required to put in writing the date the transferee/buyer’s information was sent to NICS/POC (27. a) and the “delayed” response (27. c). Some states also have a provision for recording the Missing Disposition Information date (MDI) in 27. c, which is basically the date of transfer.
In some cases, FFLS will receive NICS responses later as a follow-up to any initial response. Follow-up responses could come immediately or a few days after background submission. An FFL could still complete a firearm transaction, depending on the response received. Here is what each response means;
FFLs could receive a delayed “proceed” response if the initial response produced was incorrect, the information submitted was invalid, NICS performed further background research, or the transferee filed an appeal that determined they didn’t have firearm prohibitions against them. The FFL can therefore proceed and complete the transaction.
The FFL is required to mark “overturned” and document the “proceed” response with the date it was received (27. d) on Form 4473. Sometimes NICS/POC issues an overturn certificate which accompanies Form 4473.
A late “denied” response prohibits the FFL from transferring the firearm to the buyer. In such scenarios, NICS might have issued an erroneous initial response, or further background research determined the buyer was prohibited from carrying guns.
If it occurs the FFL had received an initial “proceed” response and then, later on, gets the “denied” response before completing the transaction, they must mark “overturned” and later note the “denied” response with the received date in 27. d.
If the firearm transfer was complete, FFLs should record the subsequent “denied” response and the date received on 27. e, and inform NICS by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 1-877-FBI-NICS (324-6427).
In cases where the first response was “delayed” and a subsequent “denied” and the firearm transaction incomplete, the licensee should record the “denied” response and the date they received the reply in 27.d.
If the firearm had already been transferred after three working days, the FFL should note the received “denied” response and the date on 27. e, then notify NICS by phone or email.
Sometimes NICS may issue a “canceled” follow-up response which stops the firearm transfer. FFLS will often receive this response if the check was not performed as stated by ATF/FBI regulations or the buyer’s information was invalid.
Some states allow FFLs to complete a firearm transaction if they don’t get a NICS response after three business days since they submitted the background check. If they had received a “delayed” initial response and no response later, they will indicate the “no response was provided within three business days” in 27. d.
Subsequent responses after the transfer of a firearm is complete should be recorded per the response and the date received on 27. e.
How are 3 Business Days Calculated?
When conducting a background check, a “business day” is specified as a 24-hour day starting at 12:01 after the check was initiated. This excludes weekends, state holidays, and days when offices are closed.
For instance, if you initiate a background check on a Monday, you have until Friday before you can legally transfer a firearm if you fail to receive a NICS response. Remember that the day of initiation isn’t counted in the three days.
It is essential that you understand the responses provided by NICS/POCS to keep your business safe when carrying out background checks on your buyers.