Federal program gives tribes access to criminal databases

Raymond Lee Fryberg Jr.
FILE - In this April 16, 2015 file photo, Raymond Lee Fryberg Jr. walks out of the Federal Courthouse in Seattle. Federal officials on Wednesday, Aug. 19, launched a new program that will allow tribes access to national criminal databases and fix a system that allowed Fryberg to buy a gun that was later used by his son to kill four classmates and himself at a Washington high school. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren,File)

SEATTLE (AP) — Federal officials on Wednesday launched a new program that will allow tribes access to 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.

Raymond Fryberg was the subject of a 2001 domestic violence restraining order issued by a Tulalip Tribal Court, which should have kept him from buying a firearm, but the restraining order was never sent to the federal criminal database used to check criminal histories during firearm purchases because of a breakdown in information sharing between tribes and outside authorities.

Fryberg’s 15-year-old son, Jaylen, shot the students and himself on Oct. 24, 2014, at Marysville-Pilchuck High School north of Seattle.

The Tribal Access Program for National Crime Information, or TAP, will allow federally recognized tribes to enter criminal records into and pull information out of national databases overseen by the Criminal Justice Information Services Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The program was announced during a conference hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI held in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Justice officials said the mass shooting by Jaylen Fryberg at Marysville-Pilchuck High School last October drove home the importance of getting an effective system in place for all tribes.

“Empowering tribal law enforcement with information strengthens public safety and is a key element in our ongoing strategy to build safe and healthy communities in Indian country,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates said. “The Tribal Access Program is a step forward to providing tribes the access they need to protect their communities, keep guns from falling into the wrong hands, assist victims, and prevent domestic and sexual violence.”

In addition to letting tribes submit data, it will also allow them to conduct background checks when a tribe needs to place a child with a foster parent in an emergency situation — another area tribes have long-sought to have fixed.

Francesca Hillary, spokeswoman for the Tulalip Tribes, has said tribes have been asking for a system to access the national databases for years. Justice officials said they’ve been working with tribes to resolve the roadblocks that kept a system from working effectively.

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, sex offenders; and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, used by Federal Firearms Licensees during gun purchases.

To date, the systems have been available to federal, state and local law enforcement but not to all tribes.

The new TAP program will support and train tribes as they connect with the system. Once established, they’ll be able to use the databases in the same way as outside law enforcement.

Raymond Fryberg has been charged in federal court with six counts of illegally buying 10 guns during a period when he was prohibited from having firearms. His trial is set for Aug. 31.

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