Report: FBI will add 400 million new records to NICS

The Federal Bureau of Investigation will add more than 400 million new records to the database used to vet gun buyers, according to a report this week from the Trace.

The National Data Exchange, aka N-DEx, contains incident and arrest reports, probation and parole documents, according to the report — a trove of information capable of preventing questionable gun transfers from proceeding, such as in the case of the Charleston church shooter.

“The idea that the FBI would have info in a database that would prohibit a gun transaction — but not make it available to the background check examiners — just doesn’t make sense,” said Frank Campbell, a Department of Justice lawyer who helped set up the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in the 1990s, during an interview with the Trace.

With access to N-DEx, investigators working the day in April 2015 when convicted shooter Dylann Roof bought a Glock handgun from a dealer in South Carolina would have seen arrest records where he admitted guilt for drug possession two months prior — an offense barring him from owning guns. Instead, agents could only see an arrest and were unable to narrow down the specifics of the incident within the three-day waiting period allotted for flagged checks. The dealer moved forward with the sale and two months later, Roof — fueled by racism — murdered nine parishioners at a historically-black church in Charleston.

Stephen Morris headed the FBI’s background check division at the time of the attack. He told The Trace adding N-DEx, a process that will likely take up to two years, makes complete sense — and should have been done a long time ago. “At the end of the day, you’re going to get some quicker decisions and that’s a benefit,” Morris said.

Nearly 41 percent of the 120,000 denials in 2016 comprised applicants convicted a crime punishable by more than one year in prison — or two years for a misdemeanor. Another 20 percent of applicants were denied as “fugitives from justice.” About 9 percent of denials were related to substance abuse, according to a federal report released last year.

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