It happens more often than you would think: a law-abiding citizen heads into their local gun store to purchase a firearm, only to be told by the clerk that the NICS has flagged their name and denied their purchase.
The person in this scenario has no criminal background and has successfully purchased multiple firearms in the past.
So why did NICS deny them?
In this instance, there has been a case of misidentification: a convicted felon with a similar name, and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or “NICS” has mistakenly flagged the law-abiding citizen as the convicted felon with the same name.
What can you do if this issue of mistaken identity happens to you?
Thankfully, persons who believe they have been erroneously denied or delayed a firearm transfer based on the background check by NICS may appeal their “delay” or “denial” decision. Pursuant to the FBI’s website, you should submit your appeal in writing to the NICS section’s Appeal Service Team or “AST”.
If the appeal is denied, you may have to do some more digging.
If indeed you find out this is an issue of mistaken identity, the next step is to take advantage of the Voluntary Appeal File, or “VAF” system the FBI provides. This provides assistance to individuals in these types of situations and helps prevent future erroneous denials and delays.
What is a UPIN?
The VAF is similar to the basic appeal process with one important addition: the Unique Personal Identification Number (“UPIN”). A UPIN provides a means of proving that you are who you claim to be and that you are qualified to purchase a firearm.
You can obtain a UPIN by following the procedures on the FBI’s website:
Fill out and sign the VAF application.
Submit the VAF application along with a copy of your fingerprints and any additional validating materials to the NICS. The VAF allows you to supply any supporting documents such as birth certificates, court records, pardons, etc.
After receiving and reviewing your application, fingerprint card, and any additional materials, you will be notified by mail if you qualify for entry into the VAF. Once you have been cleared through the VAF, you will receive your UPIN.
You’ve Received Your UPIN…
Anytime you purchase a firearm, you can place your UPIN in box nine of the ATF form 4473 and notify the FFL dealer that you have a VAF UPIN. This will prevent the NICS from throwing you into a giant pool of applicants with several commonalities.
With a UPIN, the NICS will be able to quickly identify you, helping you combat any name mix-ups and avoid any future erroneous delays and denials.
With Gunowner Identity Theft Coverage, our Independent Program Attorneys will help you navigate the legal aftermath of a stolen identity or misidentification, so your Second Amendment rights are preserved.