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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).


The FIST collects information on firearm applications, denials, and reasons for denial from state and local checking agencies and combines this data with data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Section. The FIST also collects data on denials that the FBI referred to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF’s) Enforcement and NICS Intelligence (DENI) Branch for investigation and possible prosecution. This report indicates that from 2016 to 2017, just over 36 million applications for firearm transfers and permits were subject to background checks under the Brady Act. About 500,000 (1.4 percent) of these applications were denied. The FBI and state and local checking agencies received about 17.2 million applications for firearm transfers and permits in 2017, an 11-percent decrease from the 19.2 billion applications in 2016. In 2017, state checking agencies denied 3.0 percent of purchase permits, 1.4 percent of instant checks, and 1.2 percent of exempt carry permits. Local checking agencies denied 5.6 percent of applications for purchase permits and 1.2 percent of applications for exempt carry permits in 2017. A felony conviction, indictment, charge, or arrest in the applicant’s records caused 42 percent of denials in 2016 and 46 percent in 2017. 15 tables and 1 figure

Date Created: February 16, 2021