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295,000 guns may have been sold without background checks during pandemic, report says

By Bailey Aldridge, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in News & Features

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Nearly 300,000 gun sales may have been allowed to proceed without complete background checks during the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic, a report found.

The report from advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety is based on Federal Bureau of Investigation data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. It shows that as more Americans bought guns during the pandemic, more background checks were delayed and more guns could have been sold without them.

Between March and July, 294,683 gun sales could have gone through without background checks, it says.

Background checks, which the FBI says verify that a potential buyer doesn't have a criminal record and is eligible to purchase a gun, are required for a licensed dealer to sell someone a gun.

A law known as the "Charleston loophole," however, allows gun sales to continue if a requested background check isn't completed within three business days. The loophole is how the shooter who killed nine people at a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, bought his gun in 2015, The State previously reported.

The number of Americans buying guns has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 crisis, McClatchy News previously reported. In June, there were a record 3.9 million background checks associated with gun sales, FBI data show. In July, it fell slightly to more than 3.6 million.


Historically, gun sales have been known to spike during times of uncertainty or following national tragedies, per McClatchy News.

But the spike during the pandemic has "overwhelmed" the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, according to the Everytown report. That means more checks have been delayed beyond the three day-window.

Nationally, 54% more background checks were delayed by more than three days between March and July 2020 compared with the same time frame last year, and the number of gun sales allowed to proceed without checks during those few months exceeded the number of such sales during all of 2019, according to Everytown.

Everytown estimates that roughly four times more guns were given to "prohibited purchasers" through the loophole between March and July than during the same time in 2019. Also, tens of thousands more prohibited buyers tried to purchase guns over those few months in 2020 than in the same time in 2019.


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