Via TurtleTalk: How Lack of Tribal Access to Databases Contributed to Tragic School Shooting

Full article here.

Excerpts from the article:

A flawed reporting system between tribes and outside authorities allowed a man to buy a handgun later used by his son to kill four classmates and himself in Washington state — a problem state and federal agencies have long known about but haven’t fixed.

A domestic violence protection order issued by the Tulalip Tribal Court should have prevented Raymond Lee Fryberg Jr. from buying firearms. But the order was never entered into any state or federal criminal databases, as it would be if it came from a Washington county court.

Critics say that’s because state and federal officials have failed to establish a system that allows tribal courts to enter those orders directly, or create a process that ensures it happens easily.

Fryberg passed a background check when he bought one of the guns his son, Jaylen, used in an October shooting at his high school north of Seattle. Had the protection order been in a database, Fryberg would have failed the check and been denied the gun.

. . . .

A key problem is logistics. There’s no uniform way to enter information on tribal protection orders into state databases or the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and such reporting is not required by law.

“I can’t think of a single tribe that wants abusers to have access to firearms, but despite our efforts, we keep hitting roadblocks,” said Sarah Deer, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Stephen Fischer Jr., with the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services, said some tribes enter protection orders into a national database themselves, while others have agreements for state or local agencies to do it for them. Some tribes have no involvement with federal and state databases.

Tulalip Tribes attorney Michelle Demmert has said in testimony to the U.S. Justice Department that tribal courts should not have to go through the states to enter data.

“As sovereign nations, we should not be treated as subservient partners to the state,” she said.

. . .

The National Congress of American Indians said entry of tribal court cases often is done through agreements with state or county agencies, but that data entry “is frequently denied or delayed, thus jeopardizing victim safety.”

The organization called on the U.S. attorney general to review how criminal databases are accessed, consult with tribal governments and develop a remedy.

In another article posted on, full article here, Judge Richard Blake, current president of the NAICJA board said,

“This problem is not a local problem or unique to the Tulalip Tribes. The issue of lack of entry of tribal protection orders in state and federal databases is a national crisis,” said Richard Blake, a member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe of California who serves as the president of the board of directors for NAICJA.

At the state level, Blake noted that tribes are barred from submitting data by the Washington State Police. So some tribes, including Tulalip, have entered into agreements in which local courts submit the information to the state database.

But Blake, who served as chief judge for his tribe, said the process is not flawless. Without direct tribal access, cases could fall through the cracks.

“We had hoped that with the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 which mandated the federal government to provide access to federal databases that this critical gap in public safety would be closed,” Blake said. “But here we are five years later and the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI are still in violation of the statutory requirement that tribes be given direct access to the NCIC system.”

Previous coverage here.

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