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
This Vote Comes Just Hours After the House Passed H.R. 8 –– Bipartisan Legislation to Require Background Checks on all Gun Sales
NEW YORK –– Everytown and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, released the following statement applauding the passage of H.R. 1446 –– a bill to address the Charleston loophole –– with bipartisan support. The bill, which was also passed by the House of Representatives last Congress before sitting untouched on then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk, was introduced last week by Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC). Earlier this week, the Biden-Harris administration called for the House to pass this bill, and last month, President Joe Biden released a statement saying “[t]he time to act is now” on gun safety.
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 –– thanks to skyrocketing gun sales during Covid –– we’ve learned just how wide it can get,” 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. It’s now time for the Senate to follow their lead and act. ”
“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 the Senate –– and we look forward to working with that majority to pass this bill into law.”
“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 address 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.