Investigative Group

EXCLUSIVE: FBI Gun Background Check Database Contains Nearly 14 Million Entries For Illegal Immigrants


Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Jennie Taer Investigative Reporter
Font Size:

The FBI possesses over 13.9 million records tied to illegal aliens in a database used to run background checks on individuals seeking to purchase firearms, the bureau told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The FBI maintains what is known as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is a database of records of individuals who are disqualified from purchasing a firearm. As of October 31, there were 13,925,469 records in NICS Indices of illegal/unlawful aliens, the bureau told the DCNF. (RELATED: ICE Nabs Fugitive Wanted For Assaulting Child Who Was Previously Released By Border Patrol)

The more than 13.9 million indices involving illegal aliens in the NICS database represent unique prohibiting events, such as an arrest, conviction or a commitment to a mental institution, and not unique individuals, the FBI said.

“The NICS Indices contain descriptive information of individuals identified as being prohibited from receiving a firearm-related permit based on federal or state firearm prohibitions,” the FBI told DCNF.

“An individual is entered into the NICS indices based on each prohibiting event. If there is more than one prohibiting event, then a person could have multiple entries in the NICS Indices,” said the FBI.

“A new entry into the NICS Indices,” the FBI said, “is triggered by a prohibiting event, which, depending on the jurisdiction, could be an arrest, a conviction, the issuance of a disqualifying protection order, an involuntary commitment to a mental institution, etc.”

Between November 1988 and November 2023, there were 47,930 denials of firearms purchases to illegal/unlawful aliens involving the NICS database, according to data published by the FBI.

ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) contribute 99.5% of the information on the records of illegal aliens in NICS, the FBI said. Others can come from state and local agencies.

Centerville, UNITED STATES: A Walther P22 pistol, which according to media reports is similar to one of the weapons used by 23-year-old South Korean student Cho Seung-Hui in the Virginia Tech massacre, is pictured 17 April 2007 in Centerville, Virginia. Cho Seung-Hui moved to the United States when he was just eight, but 15 years later his name is set to be permanently etched on the tragic roll call of US school and campus killings after he mowed down 32 people before turning his gun on himself.  (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP via Getty Images)

A 2018 Government Accountability Report noted that “making false written statements on” an ATF firearms-purchase background check form is “a felony under federal law.” However, the same report indicated that in cases where individuals were denied a firearm, “few” have faced prosecution. In fiscal year 2017, NICS checks resulted in roughly 112,000 denials, which only led to 12 prosecutions by June 2018.

“Federal and selected state law enforcement agencies that process firearm-related background checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) collectively investigate and prosecute a small percentage of individuals who falsify information on a firearms form (e.g., do not disclose a felony conviction) and are denied a purchase,” the GAO reported.

The number of illegal immigrants entering the country through the southern border has hit record levels in recent years, according to federal data. Border Patrol recorded more than 2.2 million migrant encounters in fiscal year 2022 at the U.S.-Mexico border and more than 2 million in fiscal year 2023.

With that, there’s concern migrants coming to the U.S. illegally could still get their hands on a gun through a licensed firearms dealer, Peter Forcelli, a retired Deputy Assistant Director from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), told the DCNF.

If there’s no record of an illegal alien in the NICS database, a firearm could be sold if the individual lies about their immigration status on their application, which is a felony, and/or may possess an ID from a state that allows noncitizens to obtain driver’s licenses, he said.

“As long as [you] have a license and no history, you can buy guns. This is really an open door for terrorists and those wishing to do us harm to be able to acquire firearms,” said Forcelli, who blew the whistle on the Obama administration’s Operation Fast and Furious in which the federal government allowed criminals to purchase firearms in Arizona in a failed effort to track the guns to criminal organizations in Mexico.

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact