Surge in Gun Sales During the Pandemic is Overwhelming the Background Check System, Making the Charleston Loophole Even Deadlier –– and the Need to Pass This Bill Even More Urgent
NEW YORK –– Everytown and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, released the following statement applauding the introduction of H.R. 1446 –– a bill to address the Charleston loophole. The bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives with bipartisan support last Congress before sitting untouched on then-Majority Leader McConnell’s desk, was introduced by Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC).
The Charleston loophole is a gap in federal law (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 –– and it has likely become even deadlier during the pandemic due to skyrocketing gun sales. According to records obtained by Everytown, between Jan. 1 and Nov. 12 of 2020, the FBI reported 5,807 sales to prohibited purchasers through this loophole –– more than in any other entire calendar year. Thousands more guns likely slipped through this loophole in 2020, as the data does not account for delayed checks that are unresolved at 90 days and are therefore completely wiped from the system.
“The Charleston Mother Emanuel Church shooting showed us just how deadly this loophole can be, and now we’ve learned just how wide it can get, thanks to skyrocketing gun sales spurred on by NRA fear mongering,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “We thank Whip Clyburn and the House of Representatives for taking action, and honoring the victims and survivors of gun violence with more than thoughts and prayers.”
“The Charleston loophole was exploited more than ever before in 2020, putting thousands of guns into the hands of people who are legally prohibited from possessing them,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “We could have addressed this deadly loophole years ago, but then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stood with the NRA to block this bill from ever getting a vote on the Senate floor. Fortunately, there’s a new majority in town –– and we look forward to working with Whip Clyburn and the House of Representatives to finish the job we started last Congress.”
“Nearly six years ago, a white supremacist murdered my mom, two of my cousins, and one childhood friend with a gun he was legally prohibited from purchasing,” said Rev. Sharon Risher, a Moms Demand Action volunteer and survivor of gun violence whose mother, two cousins, and childhood friend were killed during the Mother Emanuel shooting. “Nobody should have to live with the pain of having a loved one taken by preventable gun violence, and I am grateful that Whip Clyburn and the House of Representatives are leading the charge to close the very loophole that took my family from me.”
This bill is one of Everytown’s top priorities for the 117th Congress, and it was a cornerstone of President Biden’s campaign plans to end gun violence.
While this legislation moves through Congress, the White House can also address this crisis: As detailed in this Everytown roadmap, there are important steps the Biden-Harris administration can take to strengthen the background system, including by addressing the Charleston loophole. The loophole was created by Congress and requires legislation to fix it, but the administration can require gun dealers to notify the Department of Justice of their intention to transfer any weapons without a completed background check, which would allow the agency to prioritize completing those background checks and expeditiously recover guns that shouldn’t have been sold in the first place.