Who could have possibly predicted a pandemic? Everything changed across the world overnight because of what was labeled "Coronavirus".
(COVID-19) has certainly played a role in gun sales. But how? Why?
In March of 2020, the governors began telling their States' people to stay home. This is something no one has experienced and with all the uncertainty, people began flocking gun stores nationwide.
Many of these people were first-time gun owners, driven by fear of the unknown. What's the old saying? Something like "It's better to have something and not need it than to need it and not have it."
The FBI (federal bureau of investigation) stated that almost 2 million guns were legally sold just in that first month; March 2020. April 2020, the gun sales were about 1.6 million. That means about 70% more guns were sold these two months than the previous year's sales. People were not done purchasing though. This trend continued a few more months with June being the highest sales yet; 2.3 million guns were sold.(3)
Without surprise, the massive amount of guns sold brought to light the weaknesses in gun laws and systems. This affects the sales and the ownership of guns.
Concerning our nation's background check system, "Under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, current federal law requires licensed gun dealers to conduct a background check prior to completing a gun sale in order to ensure that the prospective purchaser is not disqualified from gun ownership under state or federal law. In states that have opted to take on the responsibility of conducting these background checks—known as “point of contact” states—a state law enforcement agency conducts the checks." (1)
"In all other states, background checks are conducted by the FBI using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The intent of this law is to reduce the risk that individuals who are prohibited from gun possession, for reasons such as a history of domestic abuse or violent felony convictions, can easily access guns. The system has been broadly effective, preventing more than 3 million sales to prohibited purchasers since its implementation in 1994.(2) However, the current system contains serious flaws that allow guns to continue to be sold without background checks, undermining other crucial gun safety laws, enabling gun trafficking, and stymying efforts to solve gun-related crimes.(3) These flaws predate the current surge in gun sales; however, the increased volume in sales is putting unprecedented pressure on the system and exacerbating its weaknesses."
NRA-ILA (Institute for Legislative Action) talks of something called the Charleston 'Loophole'. First thing to note, however, is that is NOT a loophole. Wait, what? Let's try to make sense of this, shall we? "The NRA-ILA explains it like this: It is a necessary component of our current background check system. Under current law, commercial firearms transactions cannot proceed until a background check determines that the transfer to the individual would not violate applicable federal and state laws. In the case of a delay, if the background check is not completed within 3 business days, the Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) has the OPTION to proceed with the transfer. The FFL is NOT required to complete the transfer."(4) To learn more about the Charleston Loophole, I suggest going to https://www.nraila.org/ The reason the C.L. matters is because with the huge influx of gun purchases, the resources needed to do this background checking. And relating to COVID-19, the courts were closed, all municipal buildings were closed, so not only is everything taking longer on the back end, it wouldn't really matter since there's nowhere to go from there. Four months into the pandemic, the US Department of Justice asked congress for more funding to hire people to essentially play catch-up and also asked that the ATF "to increase capacity to retrieve firearms that were erroneously sold to prohibited purchasers through a default proceed sale".(5)
The list goes on and on concerning so many areas in which this increase in sales due to coronavirus. For instance, not having to wait a mandatory amount of time. Federal law says there's no waiting (cooling off) period. A waiting period, however, could be very useful during the pandemic and the increased sales that came with it. The last thing the country needs is millions of impulse gun purchasers with no weapon training and high anxiety. As we already know, not all states are created equal when it comes to laws. Washington DC and 9 other states do have laws requiring the waiting period. And because of that, those states with the waiting period have lower overall rates of homicide and suicide.(6) With a large majority of people losing their jobs, struggling to feed their families, and losing their homes, depression and desperation can lead to suicide, no doubt.
All these first time gun owners also meant a surge in the purchase of safes. Safes are absolutely necessary and great in the prevention of guns ending up in the wrong hands; with children being the main hands we worry about.
It seems like overall the gun business is booming but the paperwork and laws are lacking. None of these issues were created by the coronavirus. They've been around. It just took a pandemic to bring these issues to light.References
(2) Jennifer C. Karberg, Ronald J. Frandsen, and Joseph M. Durso, “Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 2015 – Statistical Tables,” U.S. Department of Justice Office Bureau of Justice Statistics, available at https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/bcft15st.pdf.
(3) Center for American Progress, “Frequently Asked Questions About Universal Background Checks” (Washington: 2018), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/guns-crime/reports/2018/11/30/461385/frequently-asked-questions-universal-background-checks.
(5) Betsy Woodruff Swan, “Trump Justice Department asks for more resources to enforce gun laws,” Politico, May 12, 2020, available at https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/12/justice-department-resources-gun-laws-252398.
(6) Michael Luca, Deepak Malhotra, and Christopher Poliquin, “Handgun waiting periods reduce gun deaths,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114 (46) (2017): 12162–12165, available at https://www.pnas.org/content/114/46/12162