A surge in people buying guns since the coronavirus pandemic began has flooded the FBI’s background check system, causing a spike in the number of delayed checks and allowing gun sales to proceed without them, FBI data disclosed on Tuesday showed.
There has been a 54 percent increase in the number of background checks that were delayed past three days in the March through July period, as compared with the same time last year, the data shows.
More than 5 percent of the 5.86million background checks conducted during those months this year were delayed past three business days, it showed.
If an FBI background check takes longer than three business days, a gun dealer can sell the firearm to a buyer, under current regulations.
U.S. gun sales have soared this year, sparked by fears of social unrest because of the pandemic, violence seen on the streets of American cities during protests for racial justice, and the turbulence over the presidential election.
As a result, more Americans are trying to buy guns than ever, according to FBI data obtained by gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The bureau conducted 93 percent more background checks in that March through July period this year as compared with the same period the previous year, when it conducted 3.03million checks.
Background checks may have become more difficult to complete as state law enforcement and other government agencies housing records may have been closed or slower in replying to FBI requests because of the pandemic’s impact on staffing, said Rob Wilcox, deputy director of policy at Everytown.
The delays worry groups like Everytown because it means thousands of people prohibited by law from owning guns – such as most convicted felons – may have obtained them as the FBI background check was delayed.
‘This is dangerous because of the Charleston loophole, which allows gun sales to proceed by default when a background check takes longer than 3 days to process—meaning that people who are otherwise prohibited from owning firearms are able to purchase guns,’ the group said.
‘They should have allocated the people and resources needed to conduct these background checks,’ Wilcox added.
The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When asked in April about the spike in background checks caused by increased gun sales, the FBI said its system was ‘operational and will continue to process requests’.
Cities across the country have seen a surge in shootings over the summer, but the spike defies easy explanation.
The increase in violence likely represents a mix of factors, including record unemployment levels, the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic, stay-at-home orders, intense stress and the weather.
New York City, in particular, has seen a startling uptick in crime this year.
Between January 1 and August 23, the city recorded 280 homicides – a 35 per cent increase from 208 homicides that were recorded during the same period of 2019.
The uptick in crime comes as protests have unfolded across the country denouncing police brutality and seeking to defund police departments.
New York City announced it will slash the police budget by $1billion in July. The department budget was almost $6billion for the 2020 fiscal year.
Chicago has also been rocked by a dramatic spike in violent crime in recent months.
Stark CPD data reveals murders have rocketed 52 percent from 333 between January 1 and August 30 2019 to 505 for the same period this year.
A staggering 2,152 shootings have taken place so far in 2020 – 739 more than the 1,413 that had taken place by this time last year.