Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton today sent a letter to eight state criminal justice agencies and associations, urging them to review their processes for reporting criminal history to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The FBI administers NICS, which is intended to identify people prohibited under federal law from purchasing firearms from a licensed dealer.

A recent study found that only 68 percent of arrests in state criminal history files nationwide were reported to NICS. Texas’ overall rate is 84 percent, with a 95 percent reporting rate for arrests within the past five years compared to a nationwide average of only 65 percent.

“We congratulate you on this success, but there continues to be room for improvement,” Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Paxton wrote. “Our goal is 100 percent reporting of final dispositions statewide. We encourage you to review your processes to ensure that all relevant information is being reported.”

Federal law disallows the transfer of firearms to any person who is:

  • A fugitive from justice
  • Uses or is addicted to controlled substances
  • Has been adjudicated “mentally defective” or committed to mental institutions
  • Subject to a domestic violence restraining order
  • Convicted of a misdemeanor crime or domestic violence, or is under indictment

All criminal justice agencies in Texas, including court clerks, are required to report information identifying people ineligible to possess firearms to the Department of Public Safety through the Criminal Justice Information System pursuant to the state Code of Criminal Procedure. That information is provided to the NICS database.

“NICS is vital to making sure guns stay out of the dangerous hands of individuals with a high risk of committing violence,” Attorney General Paxton said. “By doing everything we can to ensure that all relevant information is being reported timely and accurately to NICS, Texas can help prevent shootings before they happen and save lives.”

The letter from Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Paxton was sent to the Department of Public Safety, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, the Office of Court Administration, the Sheriff’s Association of Texas, the Texas Police Association, the Texas Court Clerks Association, the Texas County and District Clerks’ Association, and the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.

View a copy of the letter and all enclosures