Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not unlicensed 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 National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)
Oregon is a point of contact state for the NICS.1 Before the sale or transfer of any firearm, a firearms dealer must request by telephone that the Oregon Department of State Police (DSP) conduct a criminal history record check on an applicant using NICS and state databases (including the state’s mental health data system).2 For this purpose, the dealer must check the purchaser’s identification, complete a firearms transaction record, and obtain the purchaser’s signature and thumbprints.3 If DSP is unable to determine, within 30 minutes, whether the purchaser is qualified or disqualified from completing the transfer, DSP shall notify the dealer and provide the dealer with an estimate of the time when DSP will provide the requested information.4
Previously, Oregon’s background check law had a major gap that allowed dealers (under state law) to deliver the firearm to the purchaser before the purchaser passed the background check if DSP had not completed the background check before the close of the next business day following the dealer’s background check request.5 Oregon voters acted in 2022 to close this gap by enacting a ballot measure that, among other things, removes this language and ensures that firearm dealers may only deliver firearms if they have received an approval number from DSP indicating that DSP completed the background check and determined that the purchaser is legally qualified to purchase firearms.6
All background checks for firearm transfers include a search of Oregon’s computerized criminal history system, the Law Enforcement Data System, NICS, the state stolen guns system, and the state mental health data system.7
As of January 1, 2019, when DSP conducts a background check on a prospective purchaser, if DSP determines that the individual is prohibited from possessing a firearm under state law, within 24-hours, DSP is required to report the attempted purchase to all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and district attorneys that have jurisdiction over the location(s) where the attempted purchase was made and where the purchaser resides.8 Under certain circumstances, DSP may also be required to report the attempted purchase to other state officials and agencies.9
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- Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map.
- Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 166.412(2)(d), 166.432(1), 166.434(1).
- Or. Rev. Stat. § 166.412(2)(a)-(c).
- Or. Rev. Stat. § 166.412(3)(b).
- Former Or. Rev. Stat. § 166.412(3)(c).
- See 2022 OR Ballot Measure 114, amending Or. Rev. Stat. § 166.412(3)(c).
- Or. Rev. Stat. § 166.432. For DSP’s rules regarding background checks, see Or. Admin. R. 257-010-0010 et seq.
- Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 166.412(7)(c), 166.436(5)(c), effective January 1, 2019.