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Everytown Responds to New FBI Data Suggesting Americans Bought 135% More Guns in July Than They Did Last Year

August 3, 2020

Continued Surge in Gun Sales Increases Risk of Gun-Related Domestic Violence, Daily Gun Violence, Unintentional Shootings, and Gun Suicide

When Americans Learn About Surge of Gun Sales, Their Support for Gun Safety Laws Surges

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 3.6 million background checks were conducted in July 2020 –– 79 percent more than in July 2019. That translates to an estimated 1.9 million guns sold, an increase of 135 percent over last July. 

This surge in gun sales is overwhelming our background check system: according to an Everytown FOIA, the National Instant Criminal Background Check system (NICS) is falling behind due to surging gun sales during the pandemic––leading to a reported likely “increase in gun purchases by people who can’t legally own them. The FOIA revealed that 53% more checks than normal are taking longer than three days to process. This is significant because it means that more guns are likely being sold to prohibited purchasers due to the Charleston loophole, a gap in federal law that allows gun sales to proceed if a background check hasn’t been completed in three business days. 

“This surge in gun sales couldn’t come at a worse time, with hospitals at capacity and the threat of gun violence on the rise,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.  “Polls show that the ongoing surge in gun sales is making Americans care more about gun safety, and if President Trump and his allies won’t listen, then we’ll find leaders who will.”

“Our recent FOIA confirmed our worst fear: America’s background check system is completely overwhelmed, meaning that more guns are being sold to people who shouldn’t have them, including felons and domestic abusers,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “Mitch McConnell has had years to allow the Senate to vote to close the Charleston loophole, but as usual, he’s empowering gun lobbyists and sidelining his constituents.”

“Gun sales have been surging since the pandemic began, so it’s impossible to identify the exact reason for this month’s sales,” said Rob Wilcox, deputy director of policy and strategy at Everytown. “But it is clear that gun companies are fear mongering to sell guns, which is dangerous and wrong at a time when the threat of gun violence is on the rise and hospitals are overflowing with patients.”

The surge in gun sales has sustained throughout the pandemic: Between March and July 2020, it’s estimated that 10.1 million guns have been sold––more than double the number of estimated guns sold over the same period last year.

The surge in gun sales is making Americans care more about gun safety: As gun sales have surged, so has Americans’ support for common-sense gun safety measures. New polling found that the vast majority of Americans believe gun safety measures are even more important now due to the coronavirus pandemic, and––when participants were informed of the spike in gun sales––their support for gun safety laws strengthened even further.

It’s estimated that over 54,000 of the delayed, uncompleted background checks from March have already been purged. All uncompleted federal background check records are purged after 90 days, meaning that most of the delayed records from March––an estimated 54,000––are now lost forever. With the large increase in background checks, the number could be even higher. 

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 America. The risk of gun suicide is particularly concerning, with data from the Great Depression and the Great Recession suggesting the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis could lead to a 20 to 30 percent increase in firearm suicides in the U.S. this year, resulting in 20 additional gun suicides per day in 2020. 

Recommendations on how to report on suicide are hereIf 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)

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