Here’s how the system is supposed to work: Before buying a gun from a federally licensed dealer, you are required to fill out a federal form with basic questions about criminal history. The seller calls the information into the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), in Clarksburg, W. Va, and on the spot your name is run through the database. In a matter of minutes, you can complete your purchase if no red flags pop up.
So who can’t get a gun? The federal law instituting instant background checks was activated in 1998 and bars convicted killers from being able to buy firearms, as well as anyone imprisoned for more than two years; those convicted of domestic abuse; fugitives from justice, illegal immigrants; soldiers who have been dishonorably discharged; and people who are under indictment for a crime punishable by more than a year behind bars.