NICS is maintained and implemented by the FBI and it is Federal. It is also the "National Instant Criminal Background check System" meaning it handles all background checks for federal law enforcement. It is deemed "Essential" and will still be available to states like New Jersey that have chosen to be Point Of Contact (POC) states. A POC State acts as a go between, between the FBI's national system and your FFL. In a normal state, unlike NJ and actually many others, background checks are done by your FFL directly through the FBI NICS computerized and yes, "Instant" system and they are free. Your tax dollars already paid for this system. When a state chooses to be a POC state they have decided that they want to expand the federal background check to include local state records for mental health and criminal records. So when we FFL's call the NICS unit we are actually calling the State Police (not federal). The NJNICS unit is actually an arm of the State Police Firearms Investigation Unit. We provide them with your information and they perform the computerized check using the federal FBI system (instantly by the way) and they also use the state's databases to check on you. Specifically any filed mental health records and particularly state criminal activity such as domestic violence. For the privilege of the added layer of investigation we get to pay New Jersey $15.
Since the State Police are not subject to the Federal shutdown, and the FBI NICS is considered ESSENTIAL as it is used nation wide for much more than just Brady Law checks, seeing a shutdown of NICS is highly unlikely since it will instantly prevent any law enforcement organization to check criminal records. NICS was not created for or implemented for the Brady Law and it existed long before the Brady Law was ever passed. NICS was adapted to be used by the ATF for FFL's based on the regulatory requirement of the Brady Law.
It's a common misconception that NICS was implemented for background investigations of firearm transactions. It was not, the federal NICS system was adapted to meet the more recent requirements of the Brady Law.
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