The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently implemented a secondary background check system known as the National Data Exchange (N-DEx) that will coincide with the current National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
According to the FBI’s website, N-DEx is, “an unclassified national information sharing system that enables criminal justice agencies to search, link, analyze, and share local, state, tribal, and federal records.” It also “enables users to team up with other investigators to quickly and securely share pertinent information, including images, videos, charts, graphs, notes, case reports, etc.” Put simply, it is a search engine that all investigative agencies can use to gain information on any given person.
According to the FBI’s N-DEx page, “N‑DEx receives data from more than 5,200 agencies” and “contains approximately 260 million records and facilitates an average of 50,000 searches per week.” With extensive access to these records, N-DEx will act as a restraint for criminals seeking ownership of a firearm. The implementation of this system was a result of the failure of the NICS system to access all existing records regarding an individual’s criminal history. The Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB, also known as the FBI watchlist) is a database used as a referencing tool by multiple agencies. A number of people are under the impression that this database is meant for police action to be taken. This is not the case. The FBI watchlist is meant to be used purely as a reference tool by other enforcement agencies. The failure of NICS is that it doesn’t reference every agency’s database.
A well-known instance of this failure was the Parkland shooting in Florida earlier this year. The shooter’s name was in the TSDB, but “protocols were not followed,” and the information they had access to should have been forwarded to the Miami field office. This would not be a problem with FBI’s N-DEx because it correlates an organization’s records with files from other contributing agencies, allowing investigators to easily obtain all existing data on a particular individual.
A study conducted by the FBI found that N-DEx is much more effective than standard background checks. The FBI found that, “out of the million checks N-DEx, caught two dozen more prohibited persons than NICS alone.” By implementing this system’s records, the FBI would be doing what many gun rights advocates have wanted for a long time: reinforcing and even improving existing gun laws rather than creating new ones.
The implementation of N-DEx into the criminal background check system sheds light on the issue of harsher background checks for citizens trying to gain access to a firearm. Gun rights advocates are often painted as being against stricter background checks, but is that necessarily true?
Tim Ryan, the U.S. representative for Ohio’s 13th congressional district, stated in February that “seventy to 80 percent of NRA members support a universal background check.” This was cited from a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling, and was fact-checked and confirmed as accurate by PolitiFact. The same poll also found that, “of all 816 gun owners (studied), 83 percent responded that they supported a criminal background check for everyone who wants to buy a firearm.”
Dana Loesch, spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, stated during the CNN town hall on gun policy that both she and her organization supported stricter background checks for firearm ownership, and that “the NRA has always been in support of making sure that states are accurately and fully reporting all of the convictions of those who are prohibited possessors.”
Given the extensive amount of support this system provides to government agencies, both political parties should be in full support of the implementation of N-DEx. Law-abiding citizens should support more extensive background checks, as stated by the National Rifle Association. These citizens should advocate for more pieces of legislation regarding systems like N-DEx.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.