BATF Instant Check--Prelude To National Gun Registration?

By Bob Culver

May 13, 1998

ATTN: Notice No. 857, PL 103-159

Chief, Regulations Division
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
650 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20226


This letter is written regarding the above referenced matter, the implementation of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NCIS). Generally it is my conclusion from reviewing the proposed regulations that they will add a burden and restrictions on citizens, their cultural heritage and a legitimate industry, far more than you estimate or are willing to admit. My specific observations are detailed below.

Regarding the return of a firearm to its lawful owner, for example from collateral for a loan (pawn) or from service by a gun smith, a NCIS check would be required. This is objectionable because it; 1] requires reproving a citizen is not a criminal to possess his lawfully owned property (criminals will not seek repair, just steal another firearm); 2] adds additional fees unnecessarily to the cost of ownership and the loan (is this factored into state and federal truth in lending regulations?); and 3] adds more firearms to the registration lists maintained at dealers (and potentially in agency computers).

The proposed regulations open the way for the collection of "optional" information such as Social Security Number (SSN). Solicitation of this information may violate the regulations of the Social Security Administration which state that the SSN is "for Social Security and tax purposes - not for identification". This data would, in addition to further identifying a purchaser, foster the use of registration databases and allow cross checking by agencies and individuals who have access to this information, either legitimately or illegally. If the goal of the NCIS check is to clear those permitted, then the least intrusive data should be presented first (name, address, D.O.B.) while a realtime match count or status is returned. Only if an initial match (restriction) is made, then additional data would submitted only till any matching prohibiting records are cleared.

The possibility of a registration database always exists. This potential violation of the law can be circumvented by establishing a Point Of Sale (POS) check procedure where the coded lists of prohibited individuals would be supplied to individual dealers, or a dealer pool in a region. The check and clearance would be made at the local level and only a response control number would be issued. Privacy would be maintained by coding the list.

There are potential conflicts in the proposed regulations. For example the 30 day time limit on "stale" NCIS check information may now or eventually may conflict with local waiting periods and the realities of time necessary to complete a transaction. With the implementation of a uniform check system, there is no reason that an individual should be prohibited from making a purchase outside of his area of residence. Local laws will still have to be followed for possession, but those submitting to the check system and be approved will, by definition be law abiding, aware of local laws and remain in compliance with them.

The procedure of denial and appeal is not clear and should be made so at this time, not determined at some time in the future. The material I have available indicates that if the NCIS system can not clear a request in 3 days, and the reviewer does not receive additional information and believes "that receipt of the firearm...would violate federal or state law" then the transfer may NOT proceed. The purchaser may then file a written request for the reason and make an appeal. Will the request and appeal carry a fee? The reason for denial should automatically be sent to the applicant and the appeal process started automatically with the NCIS operator specifically stating what data is in question and what information is necessary to remedy the error.

I expect these proposed regulations will create an impact on the individuals and business effected far in excess of that estimated in the proposed regulation notice. The monetary, paperwork and time cost to the parties are already large and will become incrementally larger with this and the eventual future extension of regulations.

I respectfully request public hearings on this matter and that I be allowed to present oral and written testimony at such hearings.


Robert D. Culver

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