In Texas, There Were Nearly 95 Percent More Background Checks Completed in March 2020 Than in March 2019
On Monday, Two Children Were Wounded in an Unintentional Shooting in Fort Worth
Everytown Releases List of Actions Governors Can Take Amid Concerns Over Unintentional Shootings, Domestic Violence Shootings, Gun Suicides
Agencies Currently Seeing Increases in Background Checks That Remain Incomplete After 3 Days; Newly Released NICS Data Shows More Background Checks Done After Trump’s State of Emergency Declaration Than After Shooting at Sandy Hook School
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action, a part of Everytown, today released the following statement after Everytown and Moms Demand Action released guidance detailing ways that governors across the country can reduce the risks of unintentional shootings, domestic violence, community violence, and gun suicides as gun sales spike and Americans self-quarantine at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Far too often, we’ve seen the tragic consequences of guns getting in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” said Tanya Rhoades, a volunteer with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Governor Abbott should take every opportunity to promote secure gun storage and keep the hundreds of thousands of kids home from school safe, especially in these uncertain times. And it’s never been more important to ensure that law enforcement has the time they need to complete every background check.”
As American life changes in the midst of COVID-19, millions of children and teens are home from school. Just as parents are taking precautions to prevent their families from becoming exposed to the virus, it’s crucial they take precautions within the home too — namely, keeping firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition. Governors across the country should promote secure firearm storage to prevent unintentional shootings and keep hospital beds and ventilators free for treating coronavirus patients.
The recommendations released Thursday include giving law enforcement the time they need to complete background checks, addressing the so-called Charleston loophole in federal law that allows gun sales to proceed if a background check has not been completed within three business days.
New data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) shows there were over 3.7 million background checks in March 2020, 41 percent higher than in March 2019. In Texas, nearly 275,000 background checks were completed this March, a nearly 95 percent increase from last March. A risk with the historic number of background checks is that law enforcement will not have enough time to complete each background check and a firearm will be transferred to someone who is later found to be prohibited.
“As America’s governors move heaven and earth to free up hospital beds for COVID-19 victims, they shouldn’t have to worry about how many of those beds will be taken by gunshot victims,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “So as gun sales surge, we’re urging governors to extend the background check window and give law enforcement the time they need to complete each and every background check.”
As detailed in the guidance, to help address the risks posed by spikes in gun sales while Americans are hunkered down at home, governors can:
- Promote the secure storage of firearms;
- Educate the public and first-time gun buyers about the risks that come with gun ownership;
- Address the Charleston loophole by giving law enforcement enough time to complete background checks;
- Address the increased risk of suicide by ensuring Extreme Risk Orders are designated as “essential” court services;
- Protect families by ensuring domestic violence restraining orders can be sought and issued and providing continuity of services to victims of domestic violence;
- Ensure essential community gun violence intervention programs can continue to work and give them the critical support they need; and
- Prevent criminals from obtaining the parts to build Ghost Guns.
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 the vast majority of background checks are completed on the spot, approximately 10 percent take longer than three business days. And a delayed background check is a strong indication that the potential buyer may ultimately turn out to be prohibited from having guns. 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.
Read the full guidance here.