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BREAKING: Amid Surging Gun Sales, DOJ Asks Congress for More Resources to Enforce Background Checks

May 13, 2020

NEW YORK –– Today, Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, a part of Everytown’s grassroots network, responded to a report that the Justice Department requested two resources from Congress: 1) “funding to help the FBI hire more staff to keep up with the growing number of background checks and appeal requests going through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System [NICS];” 2) more resources and personnel for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to deal with firearm retrievals and other field work related to delayed denials.”

“Delayed denials” are a gap in federal law (also known as the Charleston loophole, named after the loophole the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooter exploited to acquire his firearm) that allows gun sales to proceed if a background check has not been completed within three business days. FBI regulations also require that all delayed background check records must be purged from the system within 90 days, completed or not. Everytown recently released a factsheet underlining the increased dangers of the Charleston loophole during the pandemic. 

“The fact that Trump’s DOJ is asking for help on background checks is a clear warning that the surge in gun sales is making it more likely that guns are falling into the wrong hands,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Congress must provide this critical funding, and then it must address the underlying problem by closing the Charleston loophole and ensuring no gun is sold without a completed background check.”

“The DOJ asking for money to perform background checks isn’t the canary singing in the coal mine––it’s the canary keeling over,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “Congress must provide the much-needed funding to clean up this mess now and then address the loophole in federal law that caused this problem in the first place.”

In addition to releasing a factsheet underlining the increased dangers of the Charleston loophole during the pandemic, Everytown recently filed two FOIA requests pertaining to this issue: one requesting NICS data from 2000 to 2019, and another requesting NICS data specifically from January to March 2019 and January to March 2020. 

According to an Everytown analysis, an estimated 4.2 million guns were sold in March and April combined compared to the 2.3 million guns sold during the same time period last year. This historic surge in sales puts strain on the background check system, increasing the likelihood that a background check will take longer than three days and be sold to a buyer who is prohibited from buying guns.

One example of leadership on this issue in the face of the pandemic came in Rhode Island, where Governor Gina Raimondo signed an executive order in March to temporarily allow additional time for the completion of background checks. Federally, the House of Representatives has already passed bipartisan legislation, led by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), to address the deadly Charleston loophole by extending the time law enforcement has to complete the background check, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has failed to even bring the bill to the floor for a vote. 

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