Stateside Legal: Appealing the Loss of Gun Rights

National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)

Under federal law, a person who is mentally unfit to manage personal finances is also unfit to own or purchase firearms. This means that when the VA decides to assign you a fiduciary, your name will be added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). When someone tries to buy a gun, his or her name is run through NICS. It is illegal for anyone named in the NICS system to purchase or have firearms.  It is not unreasonable to feel that you can safely own a gun even though you don’t balance your own checkbook. 

You can use the “NICS relief program” to try to get your name removed from the NICS database. The people who decide your appeal look at:

  • your record and reputation
  • your mental and physical status
  • whether you are dangerous to public safety (you, your family, or your community)

Send a letter to your VA regional office (VARO) that says you wish to be granted relief from the NICS. Find your regional office here. This is like a notice of disagreement (NOD). It must:

  • be in writing,
  • identify the fiduciary appointment by date,
  • state that you disagree with your name being listed on the NICS, and
  • state your desire for relief from the NICS.

Attach evidence to support your request. Make copies of everything you send to the VA. Send by certified mail, return receipt requested (RRR).

After receiving your letter, VA will decide if they have enough evidence to grant you relief.  If the evidence isn’t enough, they will send a response asking for more. The VA response will give you 30 days to send additional evidence. After 30 days, they’ll decide based on whatever they have. Gather and send as much evidence as you can. Make copies of everything you send. Send your evidence and letters using certified mail, return receipt requested.

To be successful send evidence such as:

  • A statement from your mental health doctor. It should describe your mental health status over the last five years.
  • Medical information: the extent of any mental illness symptoms and how dangerous they are.
  • A letter from the VA that says you are competent again (you no longer need a fiduciary).
  • A statement from police/a law enforcement agency that says you are not a danger to the public.

You may be unsuccessful if you:

  • Need continuous medication to be free of  certain mental illness symptoms
  • Were convicted of a felony or violent crime
  • Suffered from substance abuse within the past year
  • Are overly aggressive
  • Have had suicidal or homicidal thoughts

If you are denied:

The Board of Veterans’ Appeals does not review NICS relief denials. Basically, you can’t appeal a denial with the VA, but these denials are subject to review in Federal district court. If you are denied relief, you will be told why. If you feel that you were denied in error (you are not a danger to yourself or others when you have guns), then you may want to speak with a lawyer. Go to our “Find Local Help” map to search for local help or a referral from the Lawyer Referral Information Service (LRIS). For questions about the NICS Relief Program, call:

NICS Information:

NICS Customer Service
1-877-FBI-NICS (324-6427)

NICS Appeal Facsimile

If you are granted relief

If you are granted relief from the NICS, it will take about two months for your name to be removed from the database. There is another way to remove your name from the NICS. Successfully appealing the appointment of a fiduciary will automatically relieve you from the NICS. It will also take about two months for your name not to show up in the NICS after a successful appeal.

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