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New FBI Data Suggests Americans Bought 4.2 Million Guns in March and April, Everytown Analysis Finds

Continued Surge in Gun Sales Amid Shelter-in-Place Orders Increases Risk of Gun-Related Domestic Violence, Unintentional Shootings, and Gun Suicide

Sustained Surge in Sales Can Cause Potentially Deadly Background Check Delays, Making the Charleston Loophole Even Deadlier

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 the number of background checks conducted in April 2020 was 25 percent higher compared to April 2019. 

According to an Everytown analysis using the Small Arms Survey methodology, an estimated 4.2 million guns were sold in March and April combined compared to the 2.3 million guns sold during the same time period last year. The estimated number of total gun sales increased in April by 72 percent year over year.

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 about 90 percent of background checks are completed on the spot, on average approximately 3 percent percent take longer than three business days.

“The giant loopholes in America’s background check law make it all too likely that today’s surge in gun sales will lead to tomorrow’s surge in gun violence,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “With the White House taking orders from the NRA, it’s up to state and local lawmakers to take action to ensure that a background check is completed before every single gun sale.”

“This continued surge in gun sales is bringing new risks into American homes that will linger long after the pandemic,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “The risks are particularly high for the millions of kids in homes with unsecured guns, women sheltering in place with abusers, and anyone who is struggling psychologically during this crisis. Policymakers have tools to address America’s gun violence crisis, and they should use them.”

MORE ABOUT THE CHARLESTON LOOPHOLE

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. A report by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that during fiscal year 2015, background check denials involving convictions of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence took longer to complete than any other prohibiting category, making the loophole particularly dangerous to victims of domestic violence.

Access to a gun increases risk across the board: doubling the risk of death by homicide, tripling the risk of suicide, and making it five times more likely that a woman will be killed in domestic violence. In February 2019, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1112, bipartisan legislation to address the Charleston loophole, but the Senate has failed to take up the bill.