In Florida, There Were 69 Percent More Background Checks Completed in March 2020 Than in March 2019
Everytown Releases List of Actions Governors Can Take Amid Concerns Over Unintentional Shootings, Domestic Violence Shootings, Gun Suicides
Agencies Currently Seeing Increases in Background Checks That Remain Incomplete After 3 Days; Newly Released NICS Data Shows More Background Checks Done After Trump’s State of Emergency Declaration Than After Shooting at Sandy Hook School
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action, a part of Everytown, today released the following statement after Everytown and Moms Demand Action released guidance detailing ways that governors across the country can reduce the risks of unintentional shootings, domestic violence, community violence, and gun suicides as gun sales spike and Americans self-quarantine at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Unintentional shootings are devastating on their own, and now each ventilator and hospital bed used by the victim of one takes vital resources away from treating coronavirus patients,” said Gaby Padrón Loewenstein, a volunteer with the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Especially with the recent spike in gun sales, Governor DeSantis should be doing everything he can to promote secure storage and responsible gun ownership and prevent unintentional shootings.”
As American life changes in the midst of COVID-19, millions of children and teens are home from school. Just as parents are taking precautions to prevent their families from becoming exposed to the virus, it’s crucial they take precautions within the home too — namely, keeping firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition. Governors across the country should promote secure firearm storage to prevent unintentional shootings and keep hospital beds and ventilators free for treating coronavirus patients.
The recommendations released Thursday also include giving law enforcement the time they need to complete background checks, addressing the so-called Charleston loophole in federal law that allows gun sales to proceed if a background check has not been completed within three business days. Florida has partially closed this loophole by requiring a completed background check for many sales, but has not closed this loophole for those with concealed weapon licenses.
New data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) shows there were over 3.7 million background checks in March 2020, 41 percent higher than in March 2019. In Florida, more than 190,000 background checks were completed this March, a 69 percent increase from last March. A risk with the historic number of background checks is that law enforcement will not have enough time to complete each background check and a firearm will be transferred to someone who is later found to be prohibited.
“We need leaders to recognize – and address – the real risks posed by the recent spike in gun sales,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “Responsible gun owners support common-sense steps to keep guns away from people who pose a risk to themselves or others, including background checks on all gun sales and secure gun storage. And governors should follow the lead of Gov. Raimondo and address the increased risk of gun violence during the coronavirus crisis by ensuring law enforcement has enough time to complete background checks on gun sales.”
As detailed in the guidance, to help address the risks posed by spikes in gun sales while Americans are hunkered down at home, governors can:
- Promote the secure storage of firearms;
- Educate the public and first-time gun buyers about the risks that come with gun ownership;
- Address the Charleston loophole by giving law enforcement enough time to complete background checks;
- Address the increased risk of suicide by ensuring Extreme Risk Orders are designated as “essential” court services;
- Protect families by ensuring domestic violence restraining orders can be sought and issued and providing continuity of services to victims of domestic violence;
- Ensure essential community gun violence intervention programs can continue to work and give them the critical support they need; and
- Prevent criminals from obtaining the parts to build Ghost Guns.
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, approximately 10 percent take longer than three business days. And a delayed background check is a strong indication that the potential buyer may ultimately turn out to be prohibited from having guns. 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.
Read the full guidance here.