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Virginia Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action Applaud Signing of Legislation to Address the Charleston Loophole

February 26, 2021

The Virginia chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots networks, released the following statement applauding the signing of HB 2128, legislation to address the Charleston loophole, which allows gun sales to move forward by default after three business days—even if a background check has not been completed. This law will go into effect in July 2021.

“This signing is further proof that times have changed in Virginia when it comes to gun safety,” said Carlos A. Gutiérrez, a volunteer with Virginia Moms Demand Action. “Not so long ago we were fighting back dangerous bills that would threaten public safety. But now, for the second year in a row, Virginia lawmakers have prioritized gun safety and our communities will be safer for it. We’re grateful to our lawmakers and proud to see the Commonwealth strengthen our background check system.” 

As a result of yesterday’s signing, 20 states and the District of Columbia have now passed legislation to close or address the Charleston loophole. 

The increased volume of gun sales during the pandemic and delays in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) have highlighted concerns about the Charleston loophole––a gap in federal law (named after the loophole that allowed the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooter to acquire his firearm) that allows gun sales to proceed if a background check has not been completed within three business days. 

  • According to FBI data, the week of March 16 to the 22 2020—the days following the President’s declaration of a national emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic—set the all-time record for the number of NICS background checks requested since the creation of the system over 20 years ago.
  • This surge in background checks has not slowed since then, with nine out of the 10 highest weeks occurring since March 2020. And three out of the five highest weeks occurring in January 2021.
  • From March to November 2020, 30.3 million background checks were initiated across the country—a 43 percent increase over the same period in 2019—translating to an estimated 17.4 million guns sold, an 81 percent increase. Virginia experienced a 73 percent increase in background check requests and a 77 percent increase in estimated gun sales during the same period.
  • Every year more than 284,000 background checks take longer than three business days. According to FBI data obtained by Everytown, the pandemic has made matters worse: More than 294,000 background checks were unresolved after three business days and allowed to proceed between March and July 2020 alone—more than the total number in all of 2019.
  • Everytown estimates that the Charleston loophole resulted in transfers of guns to at least 7,500 prohibited purchasers, such as felons, domestic abusers, and fugitives, during 2020—more than the last two years combined.

Read more about the dangers of the Charleston loophole during the pandemic here.

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