SEATTLE (AP) - The federal government is expanding a program that allows American Indian tribes to access national criminal databases and fix a system that allowed a man to buy a gun that was later used by his son to kill four classmates and himself at a Washington high school.
The Tribal Access Program, launched last year, lets tribes enter and search for records in the National Crime Information Database, used when someone tries to buy a firearm. The Justice Department chose 10 tribes, including two from Washington state, to participate in the initial phase of the program and announced this week that it has added 11 tribes to that list.
The Tulalip Tribe didn’t have access to the database, so a domestic violence protection order against Raymond Fryberg was never entered and he was able pass a background check and purchase a gun that was later used by his son, Jaylen, to kill four classmates and himself at the Marysville-Pilchuck High School in October 2014.
Washington state’s U.S. Attorney Annette Hayes said gaps in data-sharing had tragic consequences.
The FBI oversees a justice information services system in all 50 states. The system includes the National Crime Information Center, used by law enforcement to get data on stolen property, wanted people and sex offenders, and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, used by Federal Firearms Licensees during gun purchases.
Before the new program, the systems were available to federal, state and local law enforcement but not to all tribes.
Tulalip Chairman Melvin Sheldon Jr. said TAP will empower tribal law enforcement agencies nationwide by giving them the tools they have sought for years to protect their communities. In addition to using the database during firearms purchases, it’s used for background checks when placing children with a foster parent.
Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said the “landmark effort” strengthens both the sovereignty and safety of American and Alaska Native people.
“Since its launch in 2015, this project has not only helped law enforcement locate suspects, rescue victims and extradite captured fugitives, but it’s also made it easier for civil courts to enter and enforce orders of protection for domestic violence victims,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said in a statement.
During 2016, the tribes received a kiosk workstation that gave them access to national systems.
The tribes used the program for variety of criminal agencies, including law enforcement, criminal courts and jails. It lets tribes enter arrests and convictions into national databases.
Tribal civil agencies also used the program. Agencies that took advantage of the new access included those whose staff and volunteers have contact with or control over Indian children; public housing agencies; child support enforcement agencies; Head Start programs; civil agencies that investigate allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation of children; civil courts that issue orders of protection, restraining orders or other keep away orders; and sex offender registration programs.
The program helps tribes register sex offenders and have protection orders enforced off the reservations.
Phase Two of TAP will grant access to national crime information databases and technical support to the following tribes:
- Makah Indian Tribe of the Makah Indian Reservation, Washington state.
- Metlakatla Indian Community, Annette Island Reserve, Alaska.
- Navajo Nation, Arizona, New Mexico & Utah.
- Pueblo of Laguna, New Mexico.
- Yurok Tribe of the Yurok Reservation, California.
- Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North & South Dakota.
- Tohono O’odham Nation of Arizona.
- Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation, South Dakota.
- Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana.
- Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Nevada.
- Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Wisconsin.
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