News and Events
Information Related to Sunday's Interruption to Firearms Instant Check System Background Checks
03/20/2012
This was updated March 28, 2012.
 
3/27/2012
On Sunday, March 18, 2012 at approximately 9:44 a.m. the Century Link telephone company experienced a network card failure. At the time, Oregon State Police (OSP) did not know what caused the interruption in service that lasted 3 hours and 32 minutes. This equipment failure rendered the OSP Identification Services Section unable to conduct business functions, including: Firearms Instant Check System (FICS) background checks on persons attempting to purchase firearms, applicant background checks for employment and licensing, as well as criminal arrest identifications and record updates from law enforcement and criminal justice agencies.
 
In the days following this unexpected technical problem, some questioned the commitment of the FICS unit to complete background checks in a timely manner. OSP is sensitive to how our services affect those who rely on the FICS unit to complete factual research and an informed decision to determine if a purchaser is qualified to lawfully receive and possess a firearm under both state and federal law.
 
Through State (ORS 166.412) and the National Instant Check System Point of Contact designation, the Firearms Unit is required to conduct background checks for persons attempting to purchase a firearm from a Federally Licensed Firearms dealer in Oregon.  In addition, the Firearms Unit is responsible for conducting background checks for:
- private party sales at gun shows,
- private party (not at a gun show) that chooses to conduct a background check on a firearm transfer, and
- processing stolen gun checks against the stolen weapons files in LEDS and NCIC for the dealers and private citizens requesting this service.
 
In 2011, the Firearms Unit statistics reflect:
 
• 197,888 total transactions
• 194,689 completed approvals
• 2,659 completed denials
• 150 recovered stolen guns
• 74 people arrested on various charges related to FICS background checks
As noted above, 197,888 transactions were completed in 2011 related to firearms purchases – an average of 545 per day with volumes as high as over 970 per day. Approximately 95 percent of these transactions were completed within 3 to 5 minutes of receipt. The remaining five percent were “Delayed” or “Pended”, meaning the FICS unit didn’t have enough confirmed information within 30 minutes of the inquiry to determine whether the purchaser is qualified or disqualified from completing the firearms transfer.
 
The FICS unit is required by Oregon law to provide the licensed dealer with an estimated time of when the background research request can be completed. The amount of time varies, but in a best case scenario for “Pended” matters the research may be completed within 3 days. Some situations are more complicated and can extend the final determination to a month or more. In each case, the FICS unit is required to contact the dealer upon completion of the research to provide a final qualifying determination.
 
A customer information line is available for those whose transaction has been “Denied” as well as those that are waiting for the final determination of a “Pended” background check. Callers will initially hear detailed recorded information explaining the process. Those who leave a message will have their call returned in the order it was received by a FICS staff member. Due to the volume of transaction requests, these calls may not be returned the day they are received.
 
The OSP FICS unit understands how frustrating these instances may be for those who don’t know about any questionable background information that could potentially disqualify them from purchasing and possessing a firearm. Our goal is to diligently conduct the required research as quickly as possible to ensure all persons who lawfully may purchase and possess a firearm can do so.
 
We ask for your patience because we are working hard to handle all transaction-related calls in a timely manner, while at the same time completing the research on all pended transactions in order to respond back to the dealer with the final determination as quickly as possible.

More information about the Firearms Instant Check System is available on the OSP website at:
http://www.oregon.gov/OSP/ID/fics.shtml.