Topline

A spike in gun purchases amid the pandemic may have resulted in nearly 300,000 Americans acquiring guns without background checks, according to data obtained from the FBI by gun advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, as gun violence has been on the rise nationwide. 

Key Facts

The data, acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request, shows that as more Americans have purchased guns amid the pandemic, the number of background checks delayed past three days has increased by 54%. 

Under federal gun law, gun dealers are permitted to sell a firearm to a buyer if an FBI background check takes longer than three business days, dubbed the Charleston Loophole as its how the shooter of nine at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2017 obtained his gun.

More than 5% of the 5.86 million background checks conducted from March to July took more than three days to complete, meaning 294,683 were able to acquire guns by default. 

Gun sales have skyrocketed amid the pandemic, with the FBI conducted 93% more background checks during March through July compared to the same period in 2019.

In May, the Department of Justice asked Congress for more enforcement resources—including more staff to help conduct background checks—as it noticed the uptick in gun purchases.

Crucial Quote

“At the beginning of the pandemic, the DOJ warned President Trump that the background check system was going to be overwhelmed––but rather than addressing it, Trump added fuel to the fire by making it even easier to buy guns,” Rob Wilcox, Everytown for Gun Safety’s deputy director of policy and strategy, told Forbes. In March, amid a debate over whether gun stores should be opened even during lockdowns, the Trump administration determined they should be considered essential businesses. “This FOIA confirms that the worst has happened: thousands of guns have likely fallen into the wrong hands.”

Key Background 

While other types of crimes have become less common in the past few months, shootings and gun violence have increased. In May, the Gun Violence Archive reported the country’s highest number of mass shootings of any month since the group began tracking this data in 2013. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, 36 of the U.S.’s 50 biggest cities have seen double-digit increases in homicides, resulting in 24% more homicides so far this year. 

Further Reading

“Homicide Spike Hits Most Large U.S. Cities” (Wall Street Journal)

“Report: Americans Still Shot By Police At Same Rate In 2020, Despite Global Protests” (Forbes)

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