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Everytown, Moms Demand Action Respond to New FBI Data Showing Increase in Background Checks

April 1, 2020

Newly Released NICS Data Shows More Background Checks Done After Trump’s State of Emergency Declaration Than After Shooting at Sandy Hook School

A Surge in Gun Sales and Shelter-in-Place Orders Increase Risk of Gun-Related Domestic Violence, Unintentional Shootings, and Gun Suicide

The ‘Charleston Loophole’ Allows Licensed Dealers To Sell A Gun After Three Business Days Even If A Background Check Has Not Been Completed

NEW YORK — Today, Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, a part of Everytown, responded to new data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which found the number of background checks conducted in March 2020 was 41 percent higher compared to March 2019.

“Decades of NRA lobbying have created deadly loopholes in our background check laws, and now, thanks to the gun lobby’s fear-mongering, a surge in gun sales threatens to overload the system completely,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “As Americans hunker down and stress levels go up, we need to make sure every single gun sale has a completed background check to reduce the risk of guns getting into the wrong hands.”

“Adding more guns into the mix during a deadly pandemic won’t make anyone safer, but it will make the gun lobby richer,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “This spike in gun sales is deeply concerning, particularly for the millions of children unexpectedly at home with unsecured guns, women sheltering in place with abusers, and anyone struggling economically and psychologically. Stockpiling guns and ammo during this crisis puts communities at even greater risk of harm.”

According to the data, of the top ten days with the highest number of background checks since the inception of the NICS system in 1999, five of these record-breaking days occurred last month. The number of background checks done the week after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency was 26 percent higher than the week after the shooting at Sandy Hook School in 2012.

A risk with the historic number of background checks is that law enforcement will not have enough time to complete each background check. Under federal law, a federally licensed firearms dealer may transfer a firearm to the purchaser if the NICS check has not been completed within three business days — a procedural loophole known as the “Charleston loophole,” named after the loophole the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooter used to acquire his firearm. While the vast majority of background checks are completed on the spot, on average approximately 10 percent take longer than three business days.

An analysis of the past five years of NICS data shows that background checks completed after the three business day period are four times more likely to result in a denial than checks completed within three business days. A report by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that during fiscal year 2015, background check denials involving convictions of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence took longer to complete than any other prohibiting category, making the loophole particularly dangerous to victims of domestic violence.

Access to a gun increases risk across the board: doubling the risk of death by homicide, tripling the risk of suicide, and making it five times more likely that a woman will be killed in domestic violence. In February 2019, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1112, bipartisan legislation to address the Charleston loophole, but the Senate has failed to take up the bill.

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