[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 18 (Monday, January 28, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 5757-5760]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-01529]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

28 CFR Part 25

[Docket No. FBI 152: AG Order No. 3362-2013]
RIN 1110-AA27


National Instant Criminal Background Check System

AGENCY: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Justice.

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Department of Justice (the Department) proposes three 
amendments to part 25 of title 28 of the Code of Federal Regulations. 
These proposed changes are intended to promote public safety, to 
enhance the efficiency of the National Instant Criminal Background 
Check System (NICS) operations, and to resolve difficulties created by 
unforeseen processing conflicts within the system. The proposed 
amendments are for the following purposes: to add tribal criminal 
justice agencies to those entities authorized to receive information in 
connection with the issuance of a firearm-related permit or license; to 
authorize access for criminal justice agencies to the FBI-maintained 
NICS Index to permit background checks for the purpose of disposing of 
firearms in the possession of those agencies; and to permit NICS to 
retain in a separate database its Audit Log records relating to denied 
transactions beyond 10 years, rather than transferring them to a 
Federal Records Center for storage.

DATES: Written comments must be postmarked and electronic comments must 
be submitted on or before March 29, 2013. Commenters should be aware 
that the electronic Federal Docket Management System will not accept 
comments after Midnight Eastern Time on the last day of the comment 
period.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by Docket No. FBI 152, 
by either of the following methods:
     Federal Regulations Web site: You may review this 
regulation on http://www.regulations.gov and use the comment form for 
this regulation to submit your comments. You must include Docket No. 
FBI 152 in the subject box of your message.
     Mail: You may use the U.S. Postal Service or other 
commercial delivery services to submit written comments to Section 
Chief Paul Wysopal, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice 
Information Services (CJIS) Division, NICS Section, Module A3, 1000 
Custer Hollow Road, Clarksburg, West Virginia 26306 or by facsimile to 
(304) 625-0550. To ensure proper handling, please reference Docket No. 
FBI 152 on your correspondence. You may view an electronic version of 
this proposed rule at http://www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Patricia Traxler, NICS Strategy and 
Systems Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice 
Information Services (CJIS) Division, NICS Section, Module A3, 1000 
Custer Hollow Road, Clarksburg, West Virginia 26306, telephone number 
(304) 625-7372.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

I. Posting of Public Comments
II. Background
III. Regulatory Proposals
    Proposal 1: Accessing Records in the System (28 CFR 
25.6(j)(1))
    Proposal 2: Accessing Records in the System (28 CFR 
25.6(j)(3))
    Proposal 3: Storage Location of NICS Audit Log records 
relating to denied transactions (28 CFR 25.9(b)(1)(i))
IV. Regulatory Certifications


[[Page 5758]]



I. Posting of Public Comments

    Please note that all comments on the proposed rules are considered 
part of the public record and are made available for public inspection 
online at http://www.regulations.gov. Such information includes 
personal identifying information (such as your name, address, etc.) 
voluntarily submitted by the commenter.
    If you want to submit personally identifying information (such as 
your name, address, etc.) as part of your comment but do not want it to 
be posted online, you must include the phrase ``PERSONAL IDENTIFYING 
INFORMATION'' in the first paragraph of your comment. You must also 
locate all the personal identifying information you do not want posted 
online in the first paragraph of your comment and identify what 
information you want redacted.
    If you want to submit confidential business information as part of 
your comment but do not want it to be posted online, you must include 
the phrase ``CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS INFORMATION'' in the first paragraph 
of your comment. You must also prominently identify confidential 
business information to be redacted within the comment. If a comment 
has so much confidential business information that it cannot be 
effectively redacted, all or part of that comment may not be posted on 
http://www.regulations.gov.
    Personal identifying information identified and located as set 
forth above will be placed in the agency's public docket file but not 
posted online. Confidential business information identified and located 
as set forth above will not be placed in the agency's public docket 
file. If you wish to inspect the agency's public docket file in person 
by appointment, please see the ``For Additional Information'' 
paragraph.

II. Background

    The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (Brady Act) of 1993, 
Public Law 103-159, mandated background checks pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 
922(t)(1) and (3) for any firearm transfer from a federal firearms 
licensee (FFL) to any unlicensed person.
    Access to the NICS Index for purposes unrelated to the Brady Act 
NICS background checks is currently limited by 28 CFR 25.6(j) to the 
following two purposes:
    (1) Providing information to Federal, state, or local criminal 
justice agencies in connection with the issuance of a firearm-related 
or explosives-related permit or license, including permits or licenses 
to possess, acquire, or transfer a firearm, or to carry a concealed 
firearm, or to import, manufacture, deal in, or purchase explosives; or
    (2) Responding to an inquiry from the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, 
Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) in connection with a civil or 
criminal law enforcement activity relating to the Gun Control Act (18 
U.S.C. chapter 44) or the National Firearms Act (26 U.S.C. chapter 53).

III. Regulatory Proposals

    The Department is publishing three proposed changes to the NICS 
regulations for public comment. In addition, the Department is amending 
the definitional provision in section 25.2 referring to ATF to reflect 
the transfer of that agency out of the Department of the Treasury with 
a new name pursuant to the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Pub. L. 107-
296).

Proposal 1: Accessing Records in the System (28 CFR 
25.6(j)(1))

    The first proposal would amend 28 CFR 25.6(j)(1) to add tribal 
criminal justice agencies to those entities authorized to receive 
information in connection with the issuance of a firearm-related permit 
or license. Under the current regulation such information may be 
provided only ``to Federal, state, or local criminal justice 
agencies.'' Tribal criminal justice agencies are part of the governing 
authority of ``domestic dependent nations'' recognized by the United 
States. The tribes have concurrent criminal jurisdiction within the 
borders of their respective reservations and may issue firearms-related 
permits and licenses. Given that state and local criminal justice 
agencies can access the NICS Index in the course of issuing a permit or 
license, tribal criminal justice agencies should also be permitted to 
conduct NICS background checks to support their issuance of firearms 
related permits and licenses.

Proposal 2: Accessing Records in the System (28 CFR 
25.6(j)(3))

    The second proposal would amend 28 CFR 25.6(j) to authorize access 
to the FBI-maintained NICS Index to permit background checks for the 
purpose of disposing of firearms in the possession of a criminal 
justice agency.
    Under the current regulation, criminal justice agencies are not 
authorized to access the NICS in order to conduct background checks on 
individuals to whom they intend to transfer firearms in the agency's 
possession that have been recovered, confiscated, or seized. In order 
to ensure that the person to whom the firearm will be transferred is 
not prohibited from possessing a firearm, the Department proposes to 
amend 28 CFR 25.6(j) to authorize criminal justice agencies to access 
the NICS in order to conduct background checks on individuals to whom 
they intend to transfer possession of firearms in the agency's 
possession. To this end, the FBI sought and obtained the concurrence of 
the CJIS Division Advisory Policy Board (APB) (a body created pursuant 
to the Federal Advisory Committee Act, 5 U.S.C. App. 2) to this 
proposed amendment of 28 CFR 25.6(j).
    If a state is currently acting as a Point of Contact (POC) state as 
defined under 28 CFR 25.2, the checks for criminal justice agencies 
within such a state, for the purpose of returning stolen or confiscated 
firearms in the possession of criminal justice agencies, would also be 
conducted through the POC state as the firearm and firearm-related 
permit checks are currently conducted. If the FBI currently conducts 
firearm background checks for the state, such checks may be conducted 
through the FBI.

Proposal 3. Storage Location of NICS Audit Log Records 
Relating to Denied Transactions (28 CFR 25.9(b)(1)(i))

    The Department is also proposing to amend 28 CFR 25.9(b)(1)(i) to 
authorize the NICS to retain records relating to denied transactions in 
a separate FBI database beyond 10 years, rather than transferring them 
to a Federal Records Center for storage. When the NICS was established, 
the Department planned for NICS records to be stored by the National 
Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in a Federal Records Center. 
In particular, the original regulation governing NICS, at 28 CFR 
25.9(b)(1)(i), provided that records relating to denied transactions in 
the Audit Log would be transferred to a Federal Records Center after 
reaching ten years of age. But current technology allows NICS to 
readily retain such records on site, and the FBI has therefore 
determined that for NICS' own internal business operations, litigation 
and prosecution purposes, and proper administration of the system, NICS 
shall retain denied transaction records on site. As is currently the 
case, these records will be maintained in accordance with the 
applicable document retention requirements of NARA and the FBI. NICS 
business practices have changed dramatically since its inception and, 
with some exceptions, its business records are no longer retained in 
hard copy format or, in special circumstances, are retained in hard 
copy only for short periods of time. As soon as practicable after 
receipt,

[[Page 5759]]

NICS transfers its records to an appropriate electronic format (e.g., 
conversion to either pdf or tif files). These electronic formats permit 
the NICS to retain all of its operations records in readily accessible 
formats in an electronic database for the full retention period 
authorized by NARA and in conformance with the retention period of 
other CJIS Division records.

IV. Regulatory Certifications

Executive Order 12866 and 13563--Regulatory Review

    This regulation has been drafted and reviewed in accordance with 
Executive Order 12866, ``Regulatory Planning and Review,'' section 
1(b), Principles of Regulation, and in accordance with Executive Order 
13563, ``Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review,'' section 1(b), 
General Principles of Regulation.
    The Department of Justice has determined that this proposed rule is 
a ``significant regulatory action'' under Executive Order 12866, 
section 3(f), and accordingly, this rule has been reviewed by the 
Office of Management and Budget.
    Further, both Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 direct agencies to 
assess all costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, 
if regulation is necessary, to select regulatory approaches that 
maximize net benefits (including potential economic, environmental, 
public health and safety effects, distributive impacts, and equity). 
Executive Order 13563 emphasizes the importance of quantifying both 
costs and benefits, of reducing costs, of harmonizing rules, and of 
promoting flexibility.
    The Department of Justice has assessed the costs and benefits of 
this rule and believes that the regulatory approach selected maximizes 
net benefits. The benefits of this proposed rule are enhanced access to 
the NICS for tribal criminal justice agencies that issue firearms-
related licenses or permits. This access, while discretionary, will 
assist the tribes in evaluating any legal prohibitions or public safety 
risks associated with issuing a particular firearm permit or license. 
Similarly, state, tribal, and local criminal justice agencies in the 
possession of firearms will benefit by being able to ensure that 
persons to whom they transfer recovered, seized, or confiscated 
firearms are legally permitted to receive and possess those firearms. 
In both cases, such actions by criminal justice agencies will help to 
improve public safety by reducing the risk that firearms will be 
possessed and used by persons who are prohibited by law from doing so. 
Finally, the retention of denied transaction information at CJIS for 
the full period of time authorized by law will enhance the efficiency 
and operational capability of the NICS.
    The costs of this rule stem from staffing and funding required by 
state agencies or the NICS Section to conduct additional background 
checks for the disposition of firearms in the possession of criminal 
justice agencies, or in connection with the issuance of firearms-
related licenses or permits by tribal criminal justice agencies. The 
full impact of the increase in background checks resulting from these 
changes cannot be projected due to uncertainty about the number of 
firearms that currently are in, or regularly come into, the possession 
of criminal justice agencies, and the number of such firearms that 
ultimately are appropriate for transfer to an unlicensed recipient. 
Similarly, the FBI cannot predict how often tribal criminal justice 
agencies are likely to access the NICS in connection with firearms 
license or permit decisions. Because these uses of the NICS are 
discretionary with state and tribal criminal justice agencies, the FBI 
is unable to estimate the extent to which the states will use these 
capabilities and, therefore, cannot estimate either the impact on the 
states or the NICS. The FBI invites public comments on both the costs 
and benefits of this proposed rule.

Executive Order 13132--Federalism

    This proposed regulation will not have a substantial, direct effect 
on the states, on the relationship between the national government and 
the states, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among 
the various levels of government. While it provides that criminal 
justice agencies that are authorized users of the NICS with access to 
the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) will be authorized to 
conduct Disposition of Firearm background checks of the NICS Index, 
such background checks are not mandatory.
    In drafting this proposed rule, the FBI consulted the FBI's CJIS 
Division APB, which consists of representatives from numerous federal, 
state, tribal, and local criminal justice agencies across the United 
States. It recommends general policy to the FBI Director regarding the 
philosophy, concept, and operational principles of the FBI's Integrated 
Automated Fingerprint Identification System, Law Enforcement Online, 
the NCIC, the NICS, Uniform Crime Reporting, and other systems and 
programs administered by the FBI's CJIS Division. In accordance with 
Executive Order 13132, this rule does not have sufficient federalism 
implications to warrant the preparation of a Federalism Assessment.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Department, in accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 
5 U.S.C. 605(b), has reviewed this proposed regulation and, by 
approving it, certifies that this regulation will not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
This rule imposes no costs on businesses, organizations, or 
governmental jurisdictions (whether large or small).

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995

    This rule will not result in the expenditure by state, local, and 
tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of $100 
million or more in any one year, and it will not significantly or 
uniquely affect small governments. Therefore, no action was deemed 
necessary under the provisions of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 
1995.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996

    This proposed rule is not a major rule as defined by section 251 of 
the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (5 
U.S.C. 804). This proposed rule will not result in an annual effect on 
the economy of $100 million or more, a major increase in costs or 
prices, or have significant adverse effects on competition, employment, 
investment, productivity, innovation, or on the ability of United 
States-based companies to compete with foreign-based companies in 
domestic and export markets.

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995

    The collection of information contained in this notice of proposed 
rulemaking will be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for 
review in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 
U.S.C. 3507(d)).
    If criminal justice agencies choose to conduct background checks 
through NICS for disposition of firearms in their possession, then they 
are required to complete a Firearms Disposition Transaction Record 
Form. Criminal justice agencies must also verify the identity of a 
person applying for the return of a firearm by examining an 
identification document presented by the prospective transferee. The 
Firearms Disposition Transaction Record Form

[[Page 5760]]

will include certain mandatory descriptive information as well as 
optional information about the prospective transferee, such as the 
person's Social Security number and alien registration number. The 
estimated average burden associated with this collection is 25 minutes 
per respondent or record keeper, depending on individual circumstances. 
The Firearms Disposition Transaction Record Form must be retained for 
at least five years. If the transfer of a firearm is denied or 
cancelled by the NICS, or for any reason the transfer is not completed 
(delayed or unresolved) after a NICS check is initiated, the criminal 
justice agency must retain the Firearms Disposition Transaction Record 
Form for at least five years. The estimated total annual recordkeeping 
burden associated with this requirement is unknown at this time due to 
the uncertainty of the number of firearms that are currently in the 
possession of criminal justice agencies. The FBI invites the public to 
comment on this proposed collection of information to help it
    (i) Evaluate whether the proposed collection of information is 
necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, 
including whether the information will have practical utility;
    (ii) evaluate the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden 
of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of 
the methodology and assumptions used;
    (iii) enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information 
to be collected; and
    (iv) minimize the burden of the collection of information on those 
who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, 
electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or 
other forms of information technology, e.g., permitting electronic 
submission of responses.
    Comments on the proposed information collection should be sent to 
the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of OMB, Attention: 
Desk Officer for the Department of Justice and include the RIN for this 
proposed rule and the title of the collection. OMB encourages 
commenters to submit their comments via email to oira_submissions@omb.eop.gov, by fax to (202) 395-7285, or by physical mail 
to 725 17th Street NW., Room 10104, Washington, DC 20038.

List of Subjects in 28 CFR Part 25

    Administrative practice and procedure, Computer technology, Courts, 
Firearms, Law enforcement, Penalties, Privacy, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Security measures, Telecommunications.

Authority and Issuance

    Accordingly, part 25 of title 28 of the Code of Federal Regulations 
is proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 25--DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE INFORMATION SYSTEMS

0
1. The authority citation for part 25 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: Pub. L. 103-159, 107 Stat. 1536, 49 U.S.C. 30501-
30505; Pub. L. 101-410, 104 Stat. 890, as amended by Pub. L. 104-
134, 110 Stat. 1321.

0
2. In Sec.  25.2, revise the definition of ``ATF'' to read as follows:


Sec.  25.2  Definitions.

* * * * *
    ATF means the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
* * * * *
0
3. Revise Sec.  25.6, paragraph (j) to read as follows:


Sec.  25.6  Accessing records in the system.

* * * * *
    (j) Access to the NICS Index for purposes unrelated to NICS 
background checks required by the Brady Act. Access to the NICS Index 
for purposes unrelated to NICS background checks pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 
922(t) shall be limited to uses for the purposes of:
    (1) Providing information to Federal, state, tribal, or local 
criminal justice agencies in connection with the issuance of a firearm-
related or explosives-related permit or license, including permits or 
licenses to possess, acquire, or transfer a firearm, or to carry a 
concealed firearm, or to import, manufacture, deal in, or purchase 
explosives;
    (2) Responding to an inquiry from the ATF in connection with a 
civil or criminal law enforcement activity relating to the Gun Control 
Act (18 U.S.C. Chapter 44) or the National Firearms Act (26 U.S.C. 
Chapter 53); or,
    (3) Disposing of firearms in the possession of a Federal, state, 
tribal, or local criminal justice agency.
0
3. In Sec.  25.9, revise paragraph (b)(1)(i) to read as follows:


Sec.  25.9  Retention and destruction of records in the system.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) * * *
    (i) NICS denied transaction records obtained or created in the 
course of the operation of the system will be retained in the Audit Log 
for ten years, after which time they will be transferred to an 
appropriate electronic database maintained by the FBI.
* * * * *

    Dated: January 17, 2013.
Eric H. Holder, Jr.,
Attorney General.
[FR Doc. 2013-01529 Filed 1-25-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4410-02-P