Monday, April 15, 2013

Closing Arguments

From the Inlander:

Up in the attic of the Spokane County Public Defender’s office, longtime director John Rodgers roams the packed rows of archived case files, passing thousands of old court records filled with underdog tales, painful rulings and hard-fought justice.

Since his first days in law school, Rodgers has always found himself drawn to the stories behind the case numbers. When a new file comes across his desk, he will often flip first to the “facts” section just to read the colorful background information on the case.

“Sometimes it’s so depraved you wonder what the hell’s going on,” he says of the stories. “Other times, somebody will do something so noble it’ll bring tears to your eyes. … You just never know.”

Sporting round spectacles and a thick mustache, Rodgers, 61, has long served as a passionate advocate for defendants who cannot afford legal representation. He has spent more than 35 years practicing defense law in Spokane, overseeing the county’s public defender operations for the past decade.

The Spokane County Bar Association recently named Rodgers as the 2013 recipient of its most prestigious honor, the Smithmoore P. Myers Professionalism Award, named for the renowned U.S. magistrate judge and former dean of the Gonzaga University School of Law. The award will be presented at a banquet next week.

On the heels of that honor, Rodgers has announced he plans to leave the Public Defender’s office at the end of this year. He loves the law and he loves the stories, but he says he’s ready for a new chapter.

As director of the Public Defender’s office, Rodgers oversees 56 attorneys and 27 support staff members, including paralegals, investigators and administrative employees. The office handles thousands of indigent criminal and civil cases each year on an annual budget of about $8.4 million.

But Spokane County’s top public defender almost became a bookkeeper. Raised in a conservative family on the South Hill, Rodgers went on to major in accounting and literature at the University of Washington. He says he only discovered his love of the law by happenstance.

“Figured I’d end up cooking the books for some corporation eventually,” he says with a shrug. “I applied to law school because I didn't get an accounting job.”

While attending law school at Gonzaga, Rodgers first joined the Public Defender’s office as a volunteer in the mid-1970s. He stayed on after graduation for several years before starting his own private practice in 1993. He returned to the Public Defender’s office as director in 2003.

Rodgers says the core mission of a public defender remains the same as any defense attorney. Regardless of payment or politics, they must provide the best legal defense possible for their clients.

“It isn’t different because I work for the government,” he says. “It isn’t different because my client is poor. It’s exactly the same. … My job is to see that my client’s rights are scrupulously honored.”
Rodgers has argued hundreds of cases throughout his career, defending clients in several difficult death penalty cases as well as a notorious 1997 federal case against a group of anti-government militia members accused of bombings and bank robberies throughout the region. His colleagues describe him as fair-minded and hardworking.

Spokane Superior Court Judge James Triplet, a longtime friend, says Rodgers has always shown compassion and integrity when representing his clients.

“John always works hard to find out what’s been going on in their lives,” Triplet says. “He cares about those people and what they've been through.”

Full article can be found here.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Good Information on Gun Laws State by State

In need of state by state information on gun purchasing regulations? Look no further than Home Security's interactive map of gun regulations state by state.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Women’s Law Caucus Will Honor Jaime Hawk with Myra Bradwell Award

Jaime Hawk, 2004 graduate of Gonzaga Law and an Assistant Federal Defender currently on detail in All-Class ReunionCentennial Gala, and Pursuit of Justice conference. The ceremony is free and open to the public.
Washington, D.C., has been named the 2013 Myra Bradwell Award recipient. A ceremony and reception to honor Hawk will be held April 19th at 5:15 p.m. at Gonzaga Law School as a part of the Centennial Weekend at Gonzaga Law, which will also include the  the All-Class ReunionCentennial Gala, and Pursuit of Justice conference. The ceremony is free and open to the public.

A Legal Career Dedicated to Women and Children’s Rights

Hawk began her legal career as a women’s rights fellow on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee staff of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. She worked on Violence Against Women Act reauthorization and was a member of Senator Kennedy’s team on the Bankruptcy Bill, supporting then-Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren’s drafting of legislative amendments in an effort to relieve disproportionate economic effects on women and children in poverty.
Now a federal defender, Hawk has served as an Adjunct Professor of Juvenile Law at Gonzaga. Before working in federal court, she received the President’s Award from the Washington Defender Association for her work as a juvenile defender, where she helped implement a juvenile justice reform project. She is also a past president of the Washington State Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, where she led public service initiatives focused on youth including efforts to combat teen dating violence. That year she was named “Star of the Year” by the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division.

Commitment to the Community

Hawk is active in a range of equal justice initiatives and works to support many organizations and bar associations that serve women and children and provide access to justice for low-income individuals and families. She has served on boards of Washington Women Lawyers and on the ABA Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence for several years. She is currently on the Board of the Center for Women and Democracy, promoting women’s leadership development and helping lead international delegations to Chile, Morocco, Vietnam, and Rwanda. Senators Murray and Cantwell appointed Hawk to serve on the federal judicial selection committee for the Eastern District of Washington.
Hawk’s dedication to improving the lives of women and children began many years ago and continued at Gonzaga. Before law school, she worked as a domestic violence and sexual assault advocate in Boston. As a law student, she represented immigrant children with Columbia Legal Services and spent a summer in the Balkans where she helped draft a United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Violence Against Women report with a focus on domestic violence and sex trafficking. For several years after law school, she led statewide campaign efforts to address women’s human rights issues with Amnesty International. Hawk now co-leads an ABA effort to recruit and train lawyers around the country to represent children in immigration proceedings at no cost to the children.

Leadership in Law School

At Gonzaga Law, Jaime was a Thomas More Scholar and received both the Public Service Award and the John Morey Maurice Leadership and Service Award. She founded the law school’s Mission : Possible alternative international spring break program, now in its tenth year organizing service projects to benefit children and the local community.

About the Myra Bradwell Award

For 20 years, the Gonzaga Women’s Law Caucus has awarded this honor annually to a Gonzaga Law alumnus who has made a difference in the lives of women and children. The award is named for Myra Colby Bradwell, who was admitted to the Illinois Bar Association in 1890 after being denied admission 20 years earlier due to gender. Previous award recipients have included Washington State Supreme Court Justices Barbara Madsen, Debra Stephens, and Mary Fairhurst, Spokane Superior Court Judges Ellen Kalama Clark and Tari Eitzen, former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, Cheryl Wolfe, Victoria Vreeland, and many other influential women.
Please RSVP to the Myra Bradwell award ceremony by April 17th, 2013 by sending an email

Now Your iPhone Can Read Fingerprints, Scan Irises and ID Your Face

From Wired:

Cops and soldiers may soon be able to pull out their iPhones to track the eyes, facial features, voice and fingerprints of suspected criminals and combatants.

The California-based company AOptix rolled out a new hardware and app package that transforms an iPhone into a mobile biometric reader. As first reported by Danger Room in February, AOptix is the recipient of a $3 million research contract from the Pentagon for its on-the-go biometrics technology.
Opting for what it considers ease of use, the company decided to build its latest biometrics package, which it calls Stratus, atop an iPhone. A peripheral covering wraps around the phone — it’s an inch and a half thick, three inches wide and six inches tall — while the AOptix Stratus app presents a user interface familiar to any iOS user. Except you’re not going to be recording Vine videos, you’re going to be recording the most unique physical features of another human being.
“From an end-user perspective, it’s much, much smaller, lighter and easier to use an app-based capability” than the bulky biometrics tools currently in military use, Joey Pritikin, an AOptix vice president, tells Danger Room. “Anyone who’s used an iPhone before can pick this up and use it.”
The Stratus system is designed to be a “single-handed” device, Pritikin explains. Load the app and tap for iris scanning or facial recognition. The imaging display, readable from about 11 inches distant and using nothing more than the iPhone’s camera, will automatically focus and snap the shot. The phone’s ambient microphone handles voice recording, but fingerprint scanning comes from the back of the Stratus peripheral wraparound, not the iPhone’s touchscreen. Unlike a similar product from Tactivo, there’s no smartcard reader, but it scans more biometric data than someone’s fingerprint.
Anyone who’s ever used an iPhone will also be familiar with the Stratus app’s user experience for typing in annotations to the biometrics collected: small fields that look like any other iOS text feature allow quick notations. Standard iPhone geo-tagging is easy to enable, as a demo walkthrough AOptix showed Danger Room demonstrated. SMTP email functions transmit the biometric information back to a customer’s database. And an open architecture allows Stratus customers to develop their own add-ons.
But Stratus “is not a 99-cent application,” clarifies Amanda North, AOptix’s marketing vice president. The app sells for $199, and the company isn’t disclosing how much its peripheral costs. While conceivably any individual who wants to drop that much money can rig his or her iPhone for biometric collection can, “it’s not a consumer application,” North says.
It’s also not designed for every iPhone: AOptix built Stratus for the iPhone 4 and 4S, citing what it says was customer request. It doesn’t work with the iPhone 5, and the company isn’t saying what its plans are for future iPhone upgrades.
AOptix doesn’t specify its customers, but they’re from the U.S. government: Pritikin says the company has “substantial interest across a wide variety of agencies, not just DOD [the Department of Defense].” At a time of government austerity, it’s a bit curious that the company would have picked high-end Apple devices for its mobile biometrics platform: the Army, for instance, likes cheaper Android phones. Pritikin says AOptix chose iOS because it’s “a much more secure platform.”
Full article by Spencer Ackerman can be found here.

Clarence Counts

Clarence E. Counts, Jr.From the NDIA:  Clarence E. Counts, Jr., an investigator with the Federal Public Defender's Office in Jacksonville, FL, died March 13, 2013, at the very young age of 28.  Clarence was a member of the NDIA for only five years, but, in that time, he made a tremendous impression on those he knew in the organization.  In fact, Clarence Counts was profiled in the July 2012 edition of the NDIA's newsletter, Eagle's Eye, only a short time before he discovered he had cancer.  The article told an amazing story of how Clarence worked hard to break free from the extreme poverty of his early years, how his adopted family taught him about love, and his college trials.  In short, it was awe inspiring.  Clarence's presence at our conferences and his zealous work for the indigent will most certainly be missed.  For more about Clarence's life, login to the NDIA website's Members Area and read Patti Gallo's Spotlight article on Clarence.  You may also read his obituary here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Secrets of FBI Smartphone Surveillance Tool Revealed in Court Fight

From Wired:

A legal fight over the government’s use of a secret surveillance tool has provided new insight into how the controversial tool works and the extent to which Verizon Wireless aided federal agents in using it to track a suspect.

Court documents in a case involving accused identity thief Daniel David Rigmaiden describe how the wireless provider reached out remotely to reprogram an air card the suspect was using in order to make it communicate with the government’s surveillance tool so that he could be located.

Rigmaiden, who is accused of being the ringleader of a $4 million tax fraud operation, asserts in court documents that in July 2008 Verizon surreptitiously reprogrammed his air card to make it respond to incoming voice calls from the FBI and also reconfigured it so that it would connect to a fake cell site, or stingray, that the FBI was using to track his location.

Air cards are devices that plug into a computer and use the wireless cellular networks of phone providers to connect the computer to the internet. The devices are not phones and therefore don’t have the ability to receive incoming calls, but in this case Rigmaiden asserts that Verizon reconfigured his air card to respond to surreptitious voice calls from a landline controlled by the FBI.

The FBI calls, which contacted the air card silently in the background, operated as pings to force the air card into revealing its location.

In order to do this, Verizon reprogrammed the device so that when an incoming voice call arrived, the card would disconnect from any legitimate cell tower to which it was already connected, and send real-time cell-site location data to Verizon, which forwarded the data to the FBI. This allowed the FBI to position its stingray in the neighborhood where Rigmaiden resided. The stingray then “broadcast a very strong signal” to force the air card into connecting to it, instead of reconnecting to a legitimate cell tower, so that agents could then triangulate signals coming from the air card and zoom-in on Rigmaiden’s location.

To make sure the air card connected to the FBI’s simulator, Rigmaiden says that Verizon altered his air card’s Preferred Roaming List so that it would accept the FBI’s stingray as a legitimate cell site and not a rogue site, and also changed a data table on the air card designating the priority of cell sites so that the FBI’s fake site was at the top of the list.

Rigmaiden makes the assertions in a 369-page document he filed in support of a motion to suppress evidence gathered through the stingray. Rigmaiden collected information about how the stingray worked from documents obtained from the government, as well as from records obtained through FOIA requests filed by civil liberties groups and from open-source literature.

During a hearing in a U.S. District Court in Arizona on March 28 to discuss the motion, the government did not dispute Rigmaiden’s assertions about Verizon’s activities.

The actions described by Rigmaiden are much more intrusive than previously known information about how the government uses stingrays, which are generally employed for tracking cell phones and are widely used in drug and other criminal investigations.

The government has long asserted that it doesn’t need to obtain a probable-cause warrant to use the devices because they don’t collect the content of phone calls and text messages and operate like pen-registers and trap-and-traces, collecting the equivalent of header information.

The government has conceded, however, that it needed a warrant in his case alone — because the stingray reached into his apartment remotely to locate the air card — and that the activities performed by Verizon and the FBI to locate Rigmaiden were all authorized by a court order signed by a magistrate.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, who have filed an amicus brief in support of Rigmaiden’s motion, maintain that the order does not qualify as a warrant and that the government withheld crucial information from the magistrate — such as identifying that the tracking device they planned to use was a stingray and that its use involved intrusive measures — thus preventing the court from properly fulfilling its oversight function.

“It shows you just how crazy the technology is, and [supports] all the more the need to explain to the court what they are doing,” says EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury. “This is more than just [saying to Verizon] give us some records that you have sitting on your server. This is reconfiguring and changing the characteristics of the [suspect's] property, without informing the judge what’s going on.”

The secretive technology, generically known as a stingray or IMSI catcher, allows law enforcement agents to spoof a legitimate cell tower in order to trick nearby mobile phones and other wireless communication devices like air cards into connecting to the stingray instead of a phone carrier’s legitimate tower.

When devices connect, stingrays can see and record their unique ID numbers and traffic data, as well as information that points to the device’s location.

By moving the stingray around and gathering the wireless device’s signal strength from various locations in a neighborhood, authorities can pinpoint where the device is being used with much more precision than they can get through data obtained from a mobile network provider’s fixed tower location.

Use of the spy technology goes back at least 20 years. In a 2009 Utah case, an FBI agent described using a cell site emulator more than 300 times over a decade and indicated that they were used on a daily basis by U.S, Marshals, the Secret Service and other federal agencies.

The FBI used a similar device to track former hacker Kevin Mitnick in 1994, though the version used in that case was much more primitive and passive.

A 1996 Wired story about the Mitnick case called the device a Triggerfish and described it as “a technician’s device normally used for testing cell phones.” According to the story, the Triggerfish was “a rectangular box of electronics about a half a meter high controlled by a PowerBook” that was essentially “a five-channel receiver, able to monitor both sides of a conversation simultaneously.” The crude technology was hauled around in a station wagon and van. A black coaxial cable was strung out of the vehicle’s window to connect the Triggerfish to a direction-finding antenna on the vehicle’s roof, which had four antenna prongs that reached 30 centimeters into the sky.

The technology has become much sleeker and less obtrusive since then, but still operates under the same principles.

Full article by Kim Zetter can be found here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

US Citizenship and Immigration - Subpoena Compliance

US Citizenship and Immigration Services
National Records Center
PO Box 648010
Lee's Summit, MO 64064-8010

Lice assistance- 1-800-375-5283

Fax request with the Completed and signed G-639 form.

U.S. Prison Population Seeing “Unprecedented Increase”

From IPS:

The research wing of the U.S. Congress is warning that three decades of “historically unprecedented” build-up in the number of prisoners incarcerated in the United States have led to a level of overcrowding that is now “taking a toll on the infrastructure” of the federal prison system.

Over the past 30 years, according to a new report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the federal prison population has jumped from 25,000 to 219,000 inmates, an increase of nearly 790 percent. Swollen by such figures, for years the United States has incarcerated far more people than any other country, today imprisoning some 716 people out of every 100,000. (Although CRS reports are not made public, a copy can be found here.)

“This is one of the major human rights problems within the United States, as many of the people caught up in the criminal justice system are low income, racial and ethnic minorities, often forgotten by society,” Maria McFarland, deputy director for the U.S. programme at Human Rights Watch, told IPS.

In recent years, as a consequence of the imposition of very harsh sentencing policies, McFarland’s office has seen new patterns emerging of juveniles and very elderly people being put in prison.

“Last year, some 95,000 juveniles under 18 years of age were put in prison, and that doesn't count those in juvenile facilities,” she noted.

“And between 2007 and 2011, the population of those over 64 grew by 94 times the rate of the regular population. Prisons clearly aren’t equipped to take care of these aging people, and you have to question what threat they pose to society – and the justification for imprisoning them.”

According to the new CRS report, a growing number of these prisoners are being put away for charges related to immigration violations and weapons possession. But the largest number is for relatively paltry drug offences – an approach that report author Nathan James, a CRS analyst in crime policy, warns may not be useful in bringing down crime statistics.

“Research suggests that while incarceration did contribute to lower violent crime rates in the 1990s, there are declining marginal returns associated with ever increasing levels of incarceration,” James notes. He suggests that one potential explanation for this could be that people have been increasingly incarcerated for crimes in which there is a “high level of replacement”.

For instance, he says, if a serial rapist is incarcerated, the judicial system has the power to prevent further sexual assaults by that offender, and it is likely that no one will take the offender’s place. “However, if a drug dealer is incarcerated, it is possible that someone will step in to take that person’s place,” James writes. “Therefore, no further crimes may be averted by incarcerating the individual.”

Smarter on crime

Of course, the U.S. prison population’s blooming needs to be traced back to changes within the federal criminal justice system. Recent decades have seen an expanding “get tough” approach on crime here, under which even nonviolent offenders are facing stiff prison sentences.

In turn, overcrowding has become a massive issue, with the federal prison system as a whole operating at 39 percent over capacity in 2011, according to CRS. The result has also been significant price overruns, with the Bureau of Prisons budget doubling to nearly 6.4 billion dollars even while hundreds of millions of dollars worth of unaddressed infrastructure problems continue to mount.

Yet the problems being experienced by the federal prison system actually stand in contrast to certain trends at the state level. While some states have dealt with even more worrisome problems of prison overcrowding – including California, which in 2011 was ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to take steps to reduce the pressure – recent years have seen movement at the state level to counter over-incarceration.

Some of this action may have come from serious state budget crises. Currently, after all, it costs between 25,000 and 30,000 dollars to house a prisoner in the United States.

According to a new report by the Sentencing Project, a Washington advocacy group working on prison reform, prisoner populations in the United States overall declined by around 1.5 percent in 2011. Furthermore, last year lawmakers in 24 states adopted policies that “may contribute to downscaling prison populations”.

“There has been a marked change in the amount of activity at the state level to end our addiction to incarceration,” Vineeta Gupta, deputy legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told IPS.

“Some states are currently having many discussions they would not have had 10 years ago – getting smarter on crime rather than tougher on crime. None of these moves are comprehensive enough to address the large scope of the problem, but they’re very important starting points.”

She continued: “Unfortunately, the federal government has been going in the opposite direction.”

Full article can be found here.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Voters to Decide Future of Spokane Police Oversight

Worried about 'Sextortion'? FBI Shares Cautionary Tale.

From NBC News:

The FBI is urging computer users — young teens and parents of those teens — to take precautions to help prevent becoming victims of "sextortion," where criminals use social networks to gain users' trust, convincing them to send lewd or pornographic photos or videos, then threatening to share them widely if more photos aren't sent.

In one recent case, a 13-year-old girl pleaded with a man who had initially gained her trust that she did not want to take her shirt off in front of a webcam, telling the extortionist she had "a life, please do not ruin it," the FBI said in a release. But eventually, stricken with fear, the teen gave into his demands.

That man, Christopher Patrick Gunn, of Montgomery, Ala., was sentenced last month to 35 years in prison for producing child pornography through his massive online sextortion scheme, the FBI said.

For more than two years, he gained the trust of girls in a half-dozen states and in Ireland by using two ruses. One was the "new kid" approach. He created a fake Facebook profile, and posted in messages to the girls that he was new in the area and looking to make friends, said the FBI. "Once he established a level of trust, he began making demands."

In the second ruse, he pretended to be Justin Bieber on various video chat services, including Skype. (Gunn, in his 30s, does not look like the teen heartthrob, so he may have only been using text chat on the services.) Once Gunn convinced the teens he was Bieber, the FBI says, "he offered them free concert tickets or backstage passes in exchange for topless photos or webcam videos."

With either ploy, Gunn "got to know everything about the girls — their friends’ names, their schools, their parents’ names — it was like a script," Erik Doell, a special agent in the FBI’s Montgomery office who investigated the case, said in the release. "Once he got a picture, the girls would just go along with it. They would do whatever they could to keep their reputations intact."

Frighteningly, the Gunn case is hardly an isolated one.

Just last week, the FBI arrested a 27-year-old Los Angeles-area man who they say tricked women into posing nude on Skype's video chat service. The man, Karen "Gary" Kazaryan, is believed to have hacked into hundreds of women's Facebook accounts, looking at them for naked pictures. He then took on the persona of some of the women and persuaded their friends to send naked photos of themselves or appear nude on Skype, the U.S. Attorney's office said in a statement.

Full article at NBC News can be found here.

Friday, January 4, 2013

FBI Lists Most Significant Cases of 2012

The following list was posted by the FBI.

Insider trading: Charges against seven investment professionals were announced in New York in January alleging an insider trading scheme that netted nearly $62 million in illegal profits. Details

California gang takedown: A total of 119 defendants were charged in San Diego in January with federal racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking violations, and federal firearm offenses in one of the largest single gang takedowns in FBI San Diego history. The target was the Mexican Mafia gang and its affiliates.Details

Economic espionage: In February, a federal grand jury in San Francisco charged five individuals and five companies with economic espionage and theft of trade secrets in connection with their roles in a long-running effort to obtain U.S. trade secrets for the benefit of companies controlled by the People’s Republic of China. Details

Cyber hackers charged: Several hackers in the U.S. and abroad were charged in New York in March with cyber crimes affecting over a million victims. Four principal members of the hacking groups Anonymous and LulzSec were among those indicted; another key member previously pled guilty to similar charges. Details

Anchorage man indicted for murder: In April, Israel Keyes was charged with the kidnapping and murder of an Anchorage barista. Keyes is believed to have committed multiple kidnappings and murders across the country between 2001 and March 2012. In December, after Keyes committed suicide in jail, the FBI requested the public’s help regarding his other victims. Details

Financial fraudster receives 110-year sentence: In June, Allen Stanford—the former chairman of Stanford International Bank—was sentenced in Houston to 110 years in prison for orchestrating a 20-year investment fraud scheme in which he misappropriated $7 billion to finance his personal businesses.Details

Nationwide sweep recovers child victims of prostitution: The FBI and its partners announced the results of Operation Cross Country, a three-day law enforcement action in June in which 79 child victims of prostitution were recovered and more than 100 pimps were arrested. Details

International cyber takedown: Also in June, a two-year FBI undercover cyber operation culminated in the arrest of 24 individuals in eight countries. The investigation focused on “carding” crimes—offenses in which the Internet is used to steal victims’ credit card and bank account information—and was credited with protecting over 400,000 potential cyber crime victims and preventing over $205 million in losses.Details

Health care fraud: In July, global health care company GlaxoSmithKline pled guilty to fraud allegations and failure to report safety data and agreed to pay $3 billion in what officials called the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history. Details

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Gun purchasers set new record in December

The number of FBI background checks required for Americans buying guns set a record in December, as the Connecticut school massacre stirred interest in self-defense and prompted renewed talk of limits on firearms, according to FBI data.
The FBI said it recorded 2.8 million background checks during the month, surpassing the mark set in November of 2 million checks. The number was up 49 percent over December 2011, when the FBI performed a then-record 1.9 million checks.
Consumer demand for guns appears to have accounted for the uptick in activity. There were no changes in FBI background check procedures that would have affected the December numbers, FBI spokesman Stephen Fischer said.
However, December is typically the busiest month of the year for checks, due in part to Christmas gift sales.
The figures do not represent the number of firearms sold, a statistic the government does not track. They also do not reflect activity between private parties, such as family members or collectors, because federal law requires background checks only for sales from commercial vendors with a federal license.
Someone who passes a background check is eligible to buy multiple firearms.
FBI checks for all of 2012 totaled 19.6 million, an annual record and an increase of 19 percent over 2011.
The FBI system - known as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) - "processed transactions following normal established protocols," Fischer said.
The national debate on guns has grown louder since December 14 when Adam Lanza forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children and six adults before committing suicide in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, investigators said. Lanza also killed his mother, the registered owner of the guns used in the killings, before going to the school.
Interest in guns tends to increase after a mass shooting, as customers fear for personal safety or worry that lawmakers might ban certain firearms.
President Barack Obama has committed to pushing new legislation, possibly including a proposed ban on some semi-automatic weapons, this year.