Tribal Land and Background Checks


As the sun rises on 2015, we look back on news from late 2014 and how it’s impacting background checks.

In this case, we’re looking at how the FBI is treating background checks for gun sales on sovereign Indian reservations. The FBI is expanding how those background checks are handled. It’s part of the Obama administration effort to reduce gun violence in the U.S.

Under the new regulations, tribal law enforcement agencies will be allowed to access the FBI’s criminal background check system. While the law enforcement agencies will be allowed to access the system, they will not be required to do so.

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act led to the creation of the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. This system gives law enforcement agencies information about criminals who are not allowed to own firearms. However, tribal police and law enforcement agencies did not access to this federal database.

There’s a distinction that needs to be made in terms of how this relates to background checks. Although the FBI is granting tribal law enforcement agencies access to the database, there will be no requirement to run background checks on American Indians who wish to buy guns.

The FBI says this does not preempt tribal law. The FBI originally proposed giving tribal law enforcement agencies access to the criminal background check system nearly two years ago, in January 2013.

Let’s remember why background checks are so important. We know background checks and pre-employment screenings are used all the time in the hiring process.