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Gun Violence During the Pandemic: Facts and Additional Resources


Last Updated: 4.28.2021

Facts about the surge in gun sales

  • March 2020 set the all-time record for the number of background checks processed since the creation of the system over 20 years ago. By the end of March, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) saw 3.7 million background check requests, 1.1 million more than the same month last year.
  • After the announcement of federal social distancing guidelines in mid-March, Americans rushed the gun stores. The five days that followed all made the list of the most background checks in a single day, ever—no other year has more than one day in the top 10, let alone five in one week.
  • Of the 3.7 million checks last month, it is estimated that 2.6 million firearms were sold. Nearly 2/3 of these sales were for handguns.
  • This surge in gun sales puts a massive strain on the system and exacerbates existing loopholes in the system that arm domestic abusers and others who legally shouldn’t have guns. While federal law requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks on all prospective gun buyers, gun sales can proceed by default after three business days even if a check has not yet been completed. It is estimated that last month, 523 firearms were transferred to prohibited persons and close to a quarter of those firearms likely went to domestic abusers.
  • It is expected that the number of firearms that were transferred to prohibited persons is likely even higher than this estimate for two reasons: 1) given the record-breaking number of checks conducted last month, it is likely that even more checks took longer than three days to complete and 2) this estimate only accounts for the background checks processed by the FBI and not those processed by the states.

Facts about domestic violence during the pandemic:

  • While the coronavirus pandemic keeps Americans at home, law enforcement and domestic violence prevention organizations are sounding the alarm that isolation could increase the risk of abuse for victims of domestic violence. This problem is already presenting itself in states across the country and the world:
    • Kansas City Star: ‘Domestic violence calls jump 22 percent in Kansas City under stay-at-home orders.’
    • The Topeka Capital Journal reported that the Topeka police are seeing an increase in domestic violence since the coronavirus pandemic began.
  • Intimate partner violence and gun violence in the U.S. are inextricably linked, impacting millions of women, families, and communities across the country. When a domestic abuser has access to a gun, he is five times more likely to kill his female victim.
  • Every month, an average of 57 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner. Nearly one million women alive today have reported being shot or shot at by intimate partners, and 4.5 million women have reported being threatened with a gun. Children also bear the terrible burden of gun-related domestic violence: Data drawn from 16 states indicate that nearly two-thirds of child fatalities involving domestic violence were caused by guns.

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