“We’re Still Waiting on Your Background Check”: Trust But Verify, or The Things You Can Do to Check on Whether the Probate Court Is Telling You the Truth
By Matt Knighten
We have all had to wait to receive our Georgia Firearms License. By law that wait should be no later than 44 days from the date of application. Unfortunately some counties take much longer. When the Georgia Court of Appeals decided the Moore v. Cranford case, it determined delays “that reasonably may be attributed to the investigative process” could delay the issuance of the license beyond the 60 day maximum set forth in the licensing statute (though now that decision has been blunted by the July 2008 change in the law shortening the time span and allowing applicants to file a mandamus action in court to force the judge to issue the license). So, how do you know whether your delay “reasonably may be attributed to the investigative process?” GCO has determined that the following tools are helpful in making that determination.
Some Probate Courts do not use the background check procedure described in this document in which case you will have to jump through a few more hoops to get all the information you need.
1. 50 Day Checkup
If it has been more than 50 business days since you applied for a license, the first thing you should do is to call the Probate Court (Minimum time before calling should be 45 days, however anything over 50 days warrants a call and over 3 months demands a call). The response you get from them will either be that your license is ready (“in the mail”) or something similar to the following:
- We’re waiting on your background check.
- There is a backlog at the GBI (and/or FBI).
- The Sheriff has not returned your information.
If you have been told after 50 days your license still was not ready, and maybe even told to not call back for another month or two, here is how to find the status of your background check (something a few probate clerks have claimed is not possible).
2. Check with the local Law Enforcement Agency
Who is your local Law Enforcement Agency (LEA)? Well, most of the time the local Law Enforcement Agency (the agency that took your fingerprints) is the County Sheriff. Sometimes it is the City Police. Also, most of the time that same agency is also the agency where all the fingerprint and background check reports are returned. Sometimes it is the Probate Court (although there is nothing in the statute authorizing the Probate Court to run background checks directly).
Ask your local LEA about the status of your check. If they are still waiting on any portion to be returned, ask them for the ORI number that was included with the fingerprints. The ORI number is the ID of that local LEA and is how the GBI and FBI know to what agency they should return the information to. The ORI numbers of the Sheriff’s departments can be found here:
3. Check with the GBI
Regardless of whether you were told the FBI or the GBI is the holdup, call the GBI first. It
is actually quite easy to find out the status of your background check with the GBI, if you have the right information. Fingerprint cards are submitted to the GBI with the name of the person to whom the fingerprints belong and the ORI number so the GBI knows where to return the results. Without both pieces of information the GBI will not be able to locate the status.
Once you have the ORI number (correct way to say it for Oconee County – GA1080000 would be: G-A-One-Zero-Eight-Zero-Zero-Zero-Zero) and the name of the applicant, call the
GBI (GCIC) at 404-244-2639.
Most of the time you will get one of 4 outcomes:
- GBI and FBI checks have already been returned (make sure you get the date they were returned). If so then you need to skip to #5 and call the local LEA (unless you used the ORI number of the Probate court instead of the Sheriff or Police, if so skip to #6).
- GBI check is done but either the FBI check is not finished or status is unknown. If so you need to continue on to #4.
- GBI is working on it currently. If so you will just have to be patient. The good news is that for ink prints their “backlog” average is 20 days, 30 being the max.
Even though the law says 60 days, until GCO wins in the court or is successful in changing the law, there is nothing you can doAfter GCO’s loss in the court we successfully changed the law to allow applicants file a mandamus motion against the probate judge to have the license issued and recover any attorney’s fees for having to file the lawsuit.
- No record found. In that case either a different ORI number is being used or your prints have not been submitted yet. In both cases you should call the agency that took your fingerprints and make sure you are using the right ORI number and if it is find out exactly when they sent in your prints.
4. Check with the FBI
If the GBI (not the probate court or county sheriff) has told you that the FBI (NCIC) is processing your background check , the method to check with them is very similar to the GBI.
Using the same ORI number and applicant name that you used to get the information from the GBI, call the FBI (NCIC) at 304-625-5590.
They should be able to tell you where they are in the process or what date it was completed. It usually takes about 4-6 weeks for the FBI to complete the entire fingerprint check process.
5. Check back with the local Law Enforcement Agency.
If you have been told that both your GBI and FBI fingerprint checks have been completed and returned, check in again with the local Law Enforcement Agency for an update. It should only take a couple days for the information to be returned to the local LEA once the processes have been completed.
Ask them if they have received everything. If they claim they have not arrived, give them the dates when they were finished as supplied by the GBI (and possibly FBI). If everything has arrived, ask them if the report was sent to the probate court yet and if so, when that was.
6. Check again with the Probate Court
Now that you know that the probate court is supposed to have all the information at hand, it is time to call and find out what they are doing. Some probate courts will hurry as much as they can when they finally get the overdue background check report. In those counties, within 2 or 3 days, (if your license was approved) yours will quickly be signed and laminated.
Other Probate Courts will take their time. If they have all your information and will still not issue your license and you are a member of GCO, contact us about it.
Please note that GCO believes that if the Probate courts followed the law as written and intended, that this sheet should not need to exist (even barring that, keeping track of the status should be the duty of the Probate court and local Law Enforcement Agency, instead of the fee-paying applicant). However until the General Assembly fully changes the law, there will be a need for this information.
Matt Knighten is the Secretary of GeorgiaCarry.Org, Inc., and the owner of www.georgiapacking.org. Mr. Knighten was also the Georgia Administrator on Packing.org.