BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
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What provisions are made to ensure the privacy of the information identifying persons with disqualifying mental health adjudications or commitments?

The information in the NICS is subject to the Privacy Act and the privacy of the information is protected in a number of ways. The only responses provided by the NICS to a request for a NICS check is "Proceed," "Denied" or "Unresolved." In cases of a "Denied" response, neither the general prohibiting category nor information about the specific event that places an individual in that prohibited category is provided to the FFL. The individual, however, is able to request information about the reason for the denial and can appeal the denial and seek to correct incomplete or inaccurate information in the system upon which the denial is based. 

In addition, as noted above, the information identifying mental health adjudications or commitments contributed by federal and state agencies is maintained in the NICS Index. The regulations governing the NICS limits the use of the NICS Index to: (1) checks under the Brady Act by FFLs of proposed firearms transferees; (2) checks by federal, state, or local criminal justice agencies in connection with the issuance of a firearms-related or explosives-related license or permit; and (3) requests by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in connection with civil or criminal law enforcement relating to the federal Gun Control Act (18 U.S.C. Chapter 44) or National Firearms Act (26 U.S.C. Chapter 53). Checks of the NICS Index for general law enforcement purposes are not permitted under the regulations. See 28 CFR. 25.6(j).

Finally, the NICS Improvement Act requires the Attorney General to work with state and local law enforcement and the mental health community to establish regulations and protocols specifically for protecting the privacy of information in the NICS relating to mental health. The Justice Department plans to engage in the required consultations on these regulations and protocols in the near future.

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