© 2000 by Trent Sands Artwork © 2000 by Jim Blanchard
THE INSTANT BACKGROUND CHECK
A Boon For New Identity
by Trent Sands
The Brady handgun law was passed to make
it more difficult for people the government deems undesirable to obtain guns and
other firearms. When the law was passed in the early 1990s, it mandated that a
background check be performed on everyone who attempts to purchase a handgun.
Certain classes of people are ineligible to obtain weapons, such as convicted
felons or dishonorably discharged veterans of the military.
The law was difficult to implement because no real-time way
of checking for criminal records existed. The purchaser would fill out a form at
the gun store with his personal particulars, and then be told to return a few
days later for the results. The gun dealer would send the form to the local
police or sheriff department, who would then perform a background check. Part of
the Brady gun law was the requirement that an instant background check system
would have to be developed by the federal government to replace the waiting
period required under the old system. The instant check system in place now
replaces the old waiting period.
The instant check system relies on the creation of a new
database and a link to an existing computer file of criminal record information.
To understand how the system works, we need to see just who is prohibited from
purchasing guns under the law. The following categories of individuals are
deemed ineligible to purchase weapons:
As we can see, this is quite a list of people,
encompassing millions of individuals. The FBI maintains on the National Crime
Information computer, a database known as the Interstate Identification Index,
or Triple I for short. Triple I is supposed to be a comprehensive file of all
serious criminal-record data on everyone who has ever been charged with a crime
in the United States.
- Convicted felons
- People convicted of domestic assault or abuse
- Dishonorably discharged veterans from the military
- Illegal immigrants
- People under indictment for felony charges
- The mentally ill or insane
- People with outstanding misdemeanor or felony warrants
Triple I is comprised of arrests and conviction data from
the federal judicial system, along with similar records from all fifty states.
At regular intervals, all states furnish criminal-conviction data to the FBI for
inclusion in the database. Arrest-warrant information is maintained on the
Wanted Persons Index on the system. Whenever a local police department issues an
arrest warrant for a serious misdemeanor or felony, officers immediately enter
this information into the FBI database. This way if the suspect is pulled over
out of state, the warrant will show up.
The instant check system required the FBI to increase the
NCI computer's ability to accept the thousands of additional queries that will
be made to these files under the instant check system. The new files that must
be created are more problematical.
Consider the file of all those who were discharged with
shame from the military. The FBI went to the Pentagon and asked them to search
their records for the names and personal identifiers of all those individuals
who were dishonorably discharged from the service but are likely to still be
living. Some cutoff year, say 1940, would have been used, and the painstaking
task of consulting millions of records would have begun.
Each individual would be identified by his or her full
name, birth date, race and sex. This information would be placed into a file. A
similar task would be done by the Immigration Service to compile a list of those
people who are known illegal aliens. The most difficult file to be created would
be that of mentally ill and insane individuals. A few individuals who are in
long-term mental facilities might be readily identified, but what about someone
who is placed in a mental hospital for 72 hours of observation? There is no
effective way to maintain an accurate database of these people.
The other real danger of creating these new databases with
their millions of names is that human error will become part of the process. A
wrongly entered birth date or misspelled name could cause someone to be denied
their right to purchase a gun in a timely fashion.
So how does this new system help new identity seekers? One
problem an identity changer faces is the possibility that the new identity has a
criminal record or other negative baggage associated with it. This is especially
true in the case where the new identity seeker has created an identity based on
the birth certificate of a child who died early in life. Someone else might have
already appropriated this identity and created criminal records, etc., under
that name. A much smaller chance exists that a totally fabricated new identity
might match up with a real person who has run afoul of the law. The new instant
check system allows the new identity seeker to determine this fact outright,
with no risk.
The new identity seeker would go to a gun store with a
piece of false identification in the name of the identity he wishes to assume.
High quality fake drivers licenses and state identification cards are readily
available from numerous sources on the internet. The gun dealer will fill out a
form noting the ID number, name, birth date, sex, and race.
The gun dealer will call a toll-free number, and provide
the name, birth date, sex, and race of the purchaser. The background check clerk
will run these identifiers against the prohibited persons file, the Triple I
database, and the Wanted Persons Index. If all of these checks come back
negative, meaning no match was found, the gun dealer will be issued a unique
transaction number which he writes on the form.
In one instant, the new identity seeker has done a
nationwide search of the Wanted Persons Index and the Triple I Index. These are
two indexes that the FBI has never wanted the public to have access to, but that
is what the backwards logic of the Brady law now allows. If the sale is denied,
the new identity seeker simply walks away.
So now the FBI and the Justice Department have become
the single greatest friend of the new identity seeker. In an attempt to
increase the regulations on the sale of firearms, they have inadvertently opened
the door wide to those who want to make sure that their new identities are
"clean" before they use them. Bravo to the FBI!
Trent Sands is an authority on
identification and false identification. His latest book is Fake ID by
Mail and Modem. (Now out of print)
Summer 2000 Supplement * Loompanics Unlimited