In response to a bipartisan request from Senate Judiciary Committee staff, SEARCH organized a briefing for congressional staff focusing on domestic violence protective orders (DVPO) and their availability to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the system used for background checks of firearms purchasers.
The November 19 event featured experts from the FBI, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), a domestic violence organization, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), and SEARCH who briefed invited staff members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.
The FBI and TBI officials discussed the process for making DVPO and misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence (MCDV) data available to NICS.
“Panelists also outlined how the firearms eligibility process works by providing an overview of NICS—the databases involved, where the information comes from and where it is stored,” noted Ms. Kelly J. Harbitter, Director of Government Affairs for SEARCH. “They also explored the critical roles of the local and state agencies in contributing data, and that of the states and the FBI in the decision-making process of firearms eligibility.”
In addition, panelists explored what constitutes a DVPO and the criteria that make these orders eligible for a firearms purchase determination; the role of the courts and prosecutors in this process; the funding programs that support NICS; and the challenges, obstacles and successful strategies involved in sharing information with the NICS.
Briefing panelists were:
- Jill Montgomery, Supervisory NICS Liaison Specialist, FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division
- Brad Truitt, Director of Information Systems, TBI, who is Chair of the SEARCH Membership Group and Board of Directors
- Rob Valente, Senior Policy Advisor, National Domestic Violence Hotline
- Richard Schauffler, Director, Research Services, NCSC
- Devon Adams, Chief, Criminal Justice Data Improvement Program, BJS
- Kelly Harbitter, Director of Government Affairs, SEARCH
- Dennis DeBacco, Justice Information Services Specialist, SEARCH Law and Policy Program
“We believe this is the first of many conversations about how firearms eligibility decisions are made and how critical information, such as domestic violence orders of protection, are made available for those decisions,” said Ms. Harbitter. “I expect we may have additional opportunities to meet with congressional staff on this issue when the new Congress is seated in 2015.”