NICS and Background Checks

Since 1969, SEARCH's primary objective has been to identify and to help solve the information management problems of State and local justice agencies confronted with the need to exchange information with other local agencies, State agencies, agencies in other States, or with the Federal Government.

One of the most critical ways justice agencies exchange information is through criminal history record background checks.

Over the past 40 years, SEARCH has worked with States and the Federal Government on legal, policy and operational aspects of criminal history background checks, providing assistance, guidance and expertise on various background check initiatives, including the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a system through which firearm dealers contact for information on whether a firearm transfer violates Federal or State law.

In fact, SEARCH's Membership Group is comprised primarily of State-level justice officials responsible for operational decisions and policymaking concerning the management of criminal justice information, particularly criminal history information.

Under the direction of the Membership Group, SEARCH has developed an impressive range of resource materials and publications; convened many relevant conferences and workshops; and conducted many surveys over the years to help inform practitioners on background check issues.

SEARCH has also partnered with Federal and State stakeholders on critical background check issues with national implications. For example, for more than a decade, SEARCH has been involved in efforts to develop a standardized criminal history record transmission specification. SEARCH's expertise in the field of criminal justice information management and background check makes us a valuable resource to justice practitioners nationwide.

New! SEARCH Recommendations: Improving the National Instant Background Screening System for Firearms Purchases
As part of its outreach on NICS, SEARCH first prepared this document in February 2013 to respond to questions from Congress and the Administration. It contains important facts and background about NICS and the states’ role in the system. It includes SEARCH Member recommendations regarding funding and support for this critical system, and provides thoughts about—
  • how states may use funding to enhance their participation in NICS,
  • how Congress can help remove the obstacles to qualifying for and successfully using NICS funding, and
  • the impact of expanding background checks to all private sales.
As SEARCH continues to gather additional data and research, this report will be updated. Please visit to access our most recent version.

Some of our NICS and background check system resources are as follows: