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Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 2016-2017

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2021
24 pages
Publication Series

Based on data from the Firearm Inquiry Statistics (FIST) Program administered by the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), this report presents data on firearm background checks for 2016-2017 under the provisions of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (Brady Act).


This report is the sixteenth in a series produced by BJS on background checks for firearm transfers and permits. It examines the frequency of background checks for firearm transfers under the Brady Act and the nature and frequency of denials of such transfers. The report also describes the number of denied transfers referred to ATF for further investigation.

  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and state and local checking agencies received about 17.2 million applications for firearm transfers and permits in 2017, an 11% decrease from the 19.2 million applications in 2016.
  • About 1.4% of applications for firearm transfers and permits in both 2016 and 2017 were denied.
  • From when the Brady Act became effective in 1994 to 2017, about 233 million applications were subject to background checks and 3.5 million (1.5%) applications were denied.
  • In 2017, state checking agencies denied 3.0% of purchase permits, 1.4% of instant checks, and 1.2% of exempt carry permits.

Date Published: February 1, 2021