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Everytown Reveals There Were a Record Number of Gun Sales to People Prohibited from Buying in 2020 Because of a Dangerous Loophole


Newly Released Data Shows Consequences Of  Charleston Loophole – Allows Gun Dealers to Proceed with a Sale if Background Check isn’t Complete Within Three Business Days 

Everytown’s Roadmap Detailing how the Biden Administration Can Tackle Gun Safety Through Executive Action is Here; A List of Six Gun Violence Prevention Priorities for Congress is Here

Continued Surge in Gun Sales Increases Risk of Gun-Related Domestic Violence, Daily Gun Violence, Unintentional Shootings, and Gun Suicide

NEW YORK — Everytown for Gun Safety, the country’s largest gun violence prevention organization, today released records showing by mid-November, the FBI had flagged nearly 6,000 gun sales in 2020 because a purchaser who could not legally possess a firearm was allowed to buy one because of the Charleston loophole, a gap in federal law that allows gun dealers to proceed with a sale if a background check isn’t completed within three business days.

Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 12 of 2020, the FBI alerted the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to 5,807 sales to a prohibited purchaser through this loophole — more than in any other entire calendar year, according to records obtained by Everytown through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from the ATF. 

Thousands more guns likely slipped through this loophole in 2020, as the data received from ATF does not account for delayed checks that are unresolved at 90 days and are therefore completely wiped from the system. Records acquired by Everytown from the FBI through a separate FOIA found that between January and July 2020, over 250,000 checks were purged from the system, so the FBI never determined if those buyers were prohibited or not. If this rate of purged records remained the same through the end of year, Everytown estimates that over 430,000 checks that were initiated in 2020 will be completely wiped from the system.

“These records are the latest proof that NRA-backed loopholes in our background check laws allow thousands of guns each year to fall into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” said Rob Wilcox, deputy director of policy and strategy for Everytown for Gun Safety. “Every gun sold without a completed background check poses a potential risk, and these staggering numbers show we have a serious problem. As gun violence spikes across the country, these numbers make it clearer than ever that Congress and the White House should require a background check on every gun sale — and require that it be completed.”

The data breaks down these sales by state, showing among other findings:

  • By mid-November, Indiana had seen almost three times as many prohibited purchasers buy guns because of this loophole in 2020 as it had in all of 2019. 
  • Michigan had seen almost four times the number, and Kentucky had already seen more than four times the number they had in all of 2019.
  • This was just through November – these increases undoubtedly kept climbing through the end of the year.

This week, new data from the FBI showed that the spike in gun sales has continued into 2021. Last month, 4.3 million background checks were conducted—the highest month on record since the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) began operating in 1998. 

How the White House can address this crisis: As detailed in this Everytown roadmap, there are important steps the Biden-Harris administration can take to strengthen the background system, including by addressing the Charleston loophole. While closing this loophole completely requires legislation, the administration can require gun dealers to notify the Department of Justice of their intention to transfer any weapons without a completed background check, which would allow the agency to more quickly recover guns that shouldn’t have been sold in the first place. Strengthening the background check system is one of four core areas where the White House can act to address gun violence:

  1. Keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them by strengthening the background check system.
  2. Prioritize solutions to the city gun violence devastating communities every day. 
  3. Heal a traumatized country by making schools safe, confronting armed hate and extremism, preventing suicide, and centering and supporting survivors of gun violence.
  4. Launch a major firearm data project and protect the public with modern gun technology.

How Congress can address this crisis: In the 116th Congress, the House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Enhanced Background Checks Act to address the Charleston loophole, and given this new FOIA data and the surge in gun sales over the last year it is more urgent than ever that legislation be enacted to close this gap in the law. Ensuring that a background check is completed before every gun sale is one of the six steps Everytown has laid out that the 117th Congress should take to reduce gun violence: 

1. Keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them by requiring a completed background checks on all gun sales, which 93% of American voters support

2. Intervene before tragedy strikes with an Extreme Risk (or “red flag”) law, which 87% of American voters support

3. Disarm domestic abusers by reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

4. Reduce police violence by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

5. Prioritize solutions to the city gun violence devastating communities every day

6. Undo the damage the gun lobby has done to our laws, which has led to the deaths of countless Americans

The risk of gun violence is high right now: There is an increased likelihood of gun-related domestic violence, daily gun violence, unintentional gun violence, and gun suicide right now across America. The risk of gun suicide is particularly high right now across the U.S., due to COVID-19 isolation, the economic crisis, and the surge in gun sales. This is particularly concerning for young people: a CDC report found that 1 in 4 young people have “seriously considered suicide” during the pandemic –– a tragic and dangerous trend at a time when the firearm suicide rate has already increased 56% for young people between the ages of 10 to 24 years old over the last decade.

The full list of recommendations on how to report on suicide is here

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24/7. 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

You may also contact the Crisis Text Line, which provides trained crisis counseling services over text 24/7. Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the US Free and confidential mental health, suicide prevention, and crisis intervention services and resources are also available to people in-need of help, loved ones of those in-need, and frontline workers through the Pandemic Crisis Services Response Coalition at