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U.S. Department of Justice: National Instant Criminal Background Check System Act Record Improvement Program

Deadline: May 14, 2018

The NICS Improvement Amendments Act (NIAA) was signed into law in the wake of the April 2007 shooting tragedy at Virginia Tech. The Virginia Tech shooter was able to purchase firearms from a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) because information about his prohibiting mental health history was not available to the NICS, and the system was therefore unable to deny the transfer of the firearms used in the shootings. The NIAA seeks to address the gap in information available to NICS about such prohibiting mental health adjudications and commitments, and other prohibiting factors.

The NIAA requires states to meet specific goals for completeness of the records submitted to the Attorney General identifying individuals prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms. The records include automated information needed by the NICS to identify felony convictions, felony indictments, fugitives from justice, drug arrests and convictions, prohibiting mental health adjudications and commitments, domestic violence protection orders, and misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence.

The NARIP was developed to improve the completeness, automation, and transmittal of records to state and federal systems used by the NICS. Such records include criminal history records, records of felony convictions, warrants, records of protective orders, convictions for misdemeanors involving domestic violence and stalking, drug arrests and convictions, records of mental health adjudications, and other information that may disqualify an individual from possessing or receiving a firearm under federal law. Helping states, state court systems, and tribes to automate these records will also reduce delays for law-abiding gun purchasers.

The NARIP has priority area in 2018 to improve identification and reporting of convictions of domestic violence to the NICS. The need for applicants to focus efforts on identifying, flagging, and making immediately accessible to NICS records of persons prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms for domestic violence convictions is emphasized. Therefore, recipients must agree to use a portion of awarded funds to make such records accessible to NICS, unless the state certifies in the application that it:

  • Already makes available to NICS information on all persons prohibited from possessing firearms due to a domestic violence conviction; or
  • Will focus funds on another category of qualifying NICS records that the state reasonably argues represents a greater information gap.

State grants: In accordance with the NIAA, a grant to a state, territory, or Indian tribe may only be used to:

  • Supply accurate and timely information to the Attorney General concerning the identity of persons who have a federally prohibiting mental health adjudication or commitment
  • Create electronic systems that provide accurate and up-to-date information directly related to checks under the NICS, including court disposition and corrections records
  • Assist states in establishing or enhancing their own capacities to perform NICS background checks
  • Supply accurate and timely information to the Attorney General concerning final dispositions of criminal records to databases accessed by NICS
  • Supply accurate and timely court orders and records of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence for inclusion in federal and state law enforcement databases used to conduct NICS background checks
  • Collect and analyze data needed to demonstrate levels of state compliance with the NIAA
  • Maintain the required relief from disabilities program in accordance with the NIAA

State court grants: The NIAA provides that grants shall be made to each state or tribal government, consistent with plans for the integration, automation, and accessibility of criminal history records, for use by the court systems to improve automation and transmittal to federal and state repositories of: (1) criminal history dispositions; (2) records relevant to determining whether a person has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence or whether a person is a subject of a prohibiting domestic violence protection order; and (3) prohibiting mental health adjudications and commitments. Further the amounts granted shall be used by the court system only to implement:

  • Assessments, as necessary, of the capabilities of state courts to automate and transmit arrest and conviction records, court orders, and mental health adjudications or commitments to federal and state record repositories
  • Policies, systems, and procedures to automate and transmit arrest and conviction records, court orders, and mental health adjudications or commitments to federal and state record repositories

Amount: The number of awards or the maximum amount awarded per state is not estimated. The number and amount of awards is dependent on the extent to which the projects proposed address the program priority areas and the demonstrated level of need. In 2017, 15 awards were made, totaling $11,000,000. The performance period will be 12-24 months.

Eligibility: Eligible applicants are limited to (a) the agency designated by the Governor to administer the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP), (b) the state or territory central administrative office or similar entity designated by statute or regulation to administer federal grant funds on behalf of the jurisdiction’s court system, or (c) federally recognized Indian tribal governments.

Additionally, there are two specific conditions that each state must satisfy before being eligible to receive grants:

  • First, “each state shall provide the Attorney General with a reasonable estimate, as calculated by a method determined by the Attorney General…of the number of the records” subject to the NIAA completeness requirements. The last round of estimates was collected in 2011. Applicants under this solicitation should confirm with BJS whether this eligibility criteria has been met.
  • Second, a state shall certify that it has implemented a relief from disabilities program.” A “relief from disabilities program” is a program that permits persons who have been adjudicated a mental defective or committed to a mental institution to obtain relief from the firearms disabilities imposed by law as a result of such adjudication or commitment. This relief must be based on a finding, in accordance with principles of due process, by a state court, board, commission, or other lawful authority, that the circumstances of the disability and the person’s record and reputation are such that the person will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to the public safety and that the granting of relief would not be contrary to the public interest. The certification form is available on the Bureau Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) website at https://www.atf.gov/files/forms/download/atf-f-3210-12.pdf. For further information, visit NICS Improvement Act Questions and Answers on the BJS website at https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=49.

Further, applications submitted on behalf of state court systems must specifically assure that (1) the court system has the capability to contribute and will transmit pertinent information to the NICS, and (2) it will coordinate the programs proposed for NARIP funding with other federally funded information technology programs, including directly funded local programs.

Link: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=301524

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