Preventing Gun Violence Against Native Women

Six in ten Native women will be physically assaulted at some point in their lives and, on some reservations, the murder rate for Native women is ten times the national average. For Native women, the lethal threat a gun poses in the home of a domestic violence perpetrator is especially severe given that guns are involved in over one-third, approximately 35%, of homicides against Native women. Identifying and disarming domestic violence perpetrators is crucial to the survival of many Native women. Although Congress granted eligible Tribes access to national crime information databases through the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, some Tribes’ access to national databases has been limited by various state regulations, statutes, and policies. In response to the continuing issues faced by Tribes, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) launched a pilot program in 2015 called the Tribal Access Program (TAP). As a result of TAP, the DOJ has assumed responsibility for granting network access to national crime information systems to some Tribes. Participating tribes are now able to search and retrieve federal criminal information and submit criminal records to national databases, in addition to accessing state-of-the-art biometric/biographic technology and specialized training. By granting access to federal criminal databases, Tribal law enforcement should have a greater capacity to protect vulnerable individuals, particularly Native women and children at risk of domestic violence and other criminal acts. The development of the TAP signifies a vital step toward addressing the civil and criminal needs of Tribes and improving the communication of criminal information between federal, state, local, and Tribal law enforcement. The Tribal Access Program is being implemented in phases. The first phase (2015) resulted in a User Feedback Phase Report to assist in the evaluation of technical and programmatic support. In 2016, participating Tribes received integrated kiosk workstations to provide access to and enter data into national crime information systems. Through this program, the DOJ assumed responsibility for granting network access; in addition, it ensures personnel, IT, and physical security as well as testing, training, and auditing. While still in the early phases of implementation, the program is promising. “The Tribal Access Program will be critical in protecting Native women on the Umatilla Indian Reservation by ensuring all Tribal domestic violence protection orders are entered into federal criminal databases,” said Brent Leonhard, a Tribal attorney with the Office of Legal Counsel for the CTUIR. “Currently the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) does not have this ability. My hope is that this will prove to be a program that will eventually be available to all Tribes and help protect Tribal communities throughout the nation. It has been something Tribes have long requested and I’m happy the CTUIR has been chosen to be among the pilot tribes.” By allowing Tribes to enter their arrests and convictions into national databases, TAP not only aids Tribes’ efforts to keep firearms away from persons who are disqualified from purchasing or possessing them, but it also facilitates Tribes’ registration of sex offenders pursuant to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA); enhances the protection of children; improves safety in public housing; and facilitates the enforcement of orders for protection off reservation.

New Funding for Tribes

There are two possible avenues of tribal funding to assist with entry of information into CJIS databases regarding NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) which is the national system that checks available records in three databases to determine if prospective firearms purchasers are disqualified from the purchase. The first is NCHIP, which is the National Criminal History Improvement Program.  The second is NARIP or the NICS Act Record Improvement Program In an effort to promote The Tulalip Tribes of Washington has recently been awarded a grant under the NICS Act Record Improvement Program (NARIP) Other Tribes may apply as well. Please see the deadlines and links below for NCHIP and NARIP solicitations posted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.  The amount of funding available is unknown at this time.   

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