FOIA Request Questions FBI for Using NICS on NY Ammunition Background Checks

If NICS was set up to verify firearms transaction eligibility, where are the provisions for POC states like New York to authorize using it for ammunition sales? (FBI)

Attorney Stephen Stamboulieh filed a Freedom of information Act Request with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Thursday on behalf of this correspondent for records related to its use of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to process New York ammunition background checks.

“New York State now requires a background check be run every time a person buys ammunition. It doesn’t matter what kind of ammunition you’re buying or how many boxes, you can’t cash out until the check is complete,” NBC’s Rochester affiliate, WHEC News 10 reported in January. “NYS Police are tasked with doing the checks. A spokesperson has told News10NBC that Troopers use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) that’s used federally for gun purchases.”

That raises the question of where the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which administers the system, is authorized to perform background checks for ammunition purchases. Per the FBI’s “Firearms Checks (NICS)” page:

“When a person tries to buy a firearm, the seller, known as a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL), contacts NICS electronically or by phone. The prospective buyer fills out the ATF form, and the FFL relays that information to the NICS. The NICS staff performs a background check on the buyer. That background check verifies the buyer does not have a criminal record or isn’t otherwise ineligible to purchase or own a firearm.”

There is no mention of “ammunition.”

Neither is “ammunition” mentioned in the Department of Justice’s NICS rules for FFLs and POCs. (New York is now a “Point of Contact” state, and per the National Shooting Sports Foundation, “FBI will disconnect all connections with FFLs once NY becomes a POC.”)

Nor can it be found in “Public Law 110–180, An Act To improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System,” or the “Fix NICS Act.”

Can NICS be used for purposes for which it is not federally authorized?

Further, a reliable source tells me that during an FBI/ATF Townhall at the 2024 SHOT Show, NICS Section Chief Trudy Ford explained that using the NICS system for ammunition background checks was not an approved use of the NICS system.

The FOIA request for documents and records, filed to clarify authority and determine decision-making (and decision-makers) authorizing the use of NICS for New York State ammunition background checks, is embedded below.

About David Codrea:

David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating/defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” is a regularly featured contributor to Firearms News, and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.

David CodreaDavid Codrea
Shopping cart