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Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

North Dakota is not a point of contact state for NICS. North Dakota has no law requiring firearms dealers to initiate a background check prior to transferring a firearm. In North Dakota, all firearms transfers by licensed dealers are processed directly through the FBI, which enforces the federal prohibitions referenced above.1

Under federal law, persons who have been issued state permits to purchase or possess firearms are exempt from background checks if those permits were issued: 1) within the previous five years in the state in which the transfer is to take place; and 2) after an authorized government official has conducted a background investigation, including a search of the NICS database, to verify that possession of a firearm would not be unlawful.2 Concealed weapons license holders whose permits were issued after December 1, 1999 are exempt from background checks when purchasing a firearm according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) chart that outlines those permits that qualify as alternatives to the federal Brady Act. Please note that ATF’s exempt status determination is subject to change without notice. For further information, see the North Dakota Concealed Weapons Permitting section.

Firearms transfers by private sellers (non-firearms dealers) are not subject to background checks in North Dakota, although federal and state purchaser prohibitions still apply. See the North Dakota Private Sales section.


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  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at (last visited November 7, 2011).[]
  2. 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(3), 27 C.F.R. § 478.102(d).[]