Surge in Gun Sales is Overwhelming the Background Check System, Making the Charleston Loophole Even Deadlier — and the Need For Federal Action Even More Urgent
Everytown’s Roadmap Detailing how the Biden Administration Can Tackle Gun Safety Through Executive Action is Here; A List of Six Gun Violence Prevention Priorities for Congress is Here
Continued Surge in Gun Sales Increases Risk of Gun-Related Domestic Violence, Daily Gun Violence, Unintentional Shootings, and Gun Suicide
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 that 4.3 million background checks were conducted in January of 2021, the highest number of checks ever conducted in a calendar month –– 60% more than in January 2020. That translates to an estimated 2.1 million guns sold, an increase of 80% over last January.
“As the country reels from multiple crises, the gun industry has cashed in with record sales that have made Americans less safe,” said Nick Suplina, managing director of law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety. “Without swift changes in policy, our already devastating gun violence epidemic could get even deadlier. The good news, though, is that we finally have leaders in the White House and in both chambers of Congress who recognize that this crisis demands action.”
This surge in gun sales is overwhelming our background check system: According to an Everytown report, NICS is overwhelmed due to surging gun sales during the pandemic –– leading to likely thousands of guns being sold to people who can’t legally own them. The report estimated that by the end of 2020, 600,000 checks took longer than three business days — and because of a gap in federal law known as the Charleston loophole, dealers can complete gun sales after three business days even if a background check is still ongoing.
How the White House can 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. While closing this loophole completely requires legislation, 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 more quickly recover guns that shouldn’t have been sold in the first place. Strengthening the background check system is one of four core areas where the White Housecan act to address gun violence:
- Keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them by strengthening the background check system.
- Prioritize solutions to the city gun violence devastating communities every day.
- Heal a traumatized country by making schools safe, confronting armed hate and extremism, preventing suicide, and centering and supporting survivors of gun violence.
- Launch a major firearm data project and protect the public with modern gun technology.
How Congress can address this crisis: In the 116th Congress, the House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Enhanced Background Checks Act to address the Charleston loophole, and given the surge in background checks over the last year it is more urgent than ever that legislation be enacted to close this gap in the law. Ensuring that a background check is completed before every gun sale is one of the six steps Everytown has laid out that the 117th Congress should take to reduce gun violence:
1. Keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them by requiring a completed background checks on all gun sales, which 93% of American voters support
2. Intervene before tragedy strikes with an Extreme Risk (or “red flag”) law, which 87% of American voters support
3. Disarm domestic abusers by reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
4. Reduce police violence by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
5. Prioritize solutions to the city gun violence devastating communities every day
6. Undo the damage the gun lobby has done to our laws, which has led to the deaths of countless Americans
The risk of gun violence is high right now: There is an increased likelihood of gun-related domestic violence, daily gun violence, unintentional gun violence, and gun suicide right now across the U.S. The risk of gun suicide is particularly high right now due to COVID-19 isolation, the economic crisis, and the surge in gun sales. This is particularly concerning relating to young people: a CDC report found that 1 in 4 young people have “seriously considered suicide” during the pandemic –– a tragic and dangerous trend at a time when the firearm suicide rate has already increased 56% for young people between the ages of 10 to 24 years old over the last decade.
The full list of recommendations on how to report on suicide is here.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24/7. 1-800-273-TALK (8255) suicidepreventionlifeline.org
You may also contact the Crisis Text Line, which provides trained crisis counseling services over text 24/7. Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the US crisistextline.org. Free and confidential mental health, suicide prevention, and crisis intervention services and resources are also available to people in-need of help, loved ones of those in-need, and frontline workers through the Pandemic Crisis Services Response Coalition at https://www.covidmentalhealthsupport.org