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Database Management System – Firearms

A recent FBI report on NICS (the National Instant Criminal Background Check System) indicated that a contributing index (namely, the NICS Index) supplements the background check process applied to prospective firearms transferees, including information voluntarily submitted by states to this FBI-maintained database and index. Parenthetically, I spoke with WCBS news on Saturday July 11, 2015, appearing for 2.5 seconds during the evening news, opining (as nationally broadcast) ever so briefly on the completeness and timeliness characteristics of information upon which designated decision-makers rely. These imperfections in inputs, processing, and outputs are common to innumerable databases as prioritization of the timeliness and completeness characteristics tends to increase the costs, especially labor and supervision, of database preparation and maintenance. The risk is the failure of relevancy (consider garbage-in, garbage-out, GIGO) in unforeseen material respects (for example, allowing a firearm to be sold to a violently unstable or drug-addled individual with an adverse criminal record).

Additionally, the NICS, federal firearms licensees (FFLs), and prospective firearms transferees (for example, buyers), using Form 4473 – the Firearms Transaction Record, rely on descriptive information provided by the transferee and FFL, the accuracy and authentication of which are at issue (consider identity theft). Other considerable costs (analogously, those accompanying financial crimes such as money laundering) would include ferreting out front / straw men standing in for the ultimate transferees, a risk unaddressed by NICS.

Briefly, the inputs are neither assured nor complete. The processing risk is aggravated by the regulatory regime’s “delayed” decision-making procedures, practicably allowing only three business days for resolution. The integrity of the outputs, absent clairvoyance and/or good luck, are unsurprisingly limited by the states of the inputs and processing. Those with experience in background investigations and (enhanced) due diligence recognize that hastiness contributes to less than optimal decisions.