Amid COVID-19 fears, FBI processes gun purchase background checks at historic rates

Coronavirus

Andrea Schry, right, fills out the buyer part of legal forms to buy a handgun as shop worker Missy Morosky fills out the vendors parts after Dukes Sport Shop reopened, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in New Castle, Pa. under the new conditions specified for gun stores. The store had closed last week when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered a shut down of non-essential businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Historically, times of uncertainty have led to increases in gun sales. A look at recent firearm purchase background check statistics, released by the FBI, would lead one to believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a similar effect and at historic rates.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is based at the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS) in Clarksburg, released updated statistics through March 2020 this week.

The FBI processed 3,740,688 firearms background checks in March, the most for any one month since NICS started doing the checks in 1998, according to the Firearm Background Checks: Month/Year report.

In the week of March 16-22, 2020, FBI staff did 1,197,788 background checks, the busiest week on record. The weeks of March 9-15, 2020 (4th); February 24-March 1, 2020 (5th); and March 23-29, 2020 (9th) were also listed in top ten highest weeks on record. The other six busiest weeks were all in the month of December, over a period of years, during holiday shopping seasons. This is all according to the NICS Top 10 Highest Days/Weeks report.

Signs point out quantity limits on certain types of ammunition after Dukes Sport Shop reopened, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in New Castle, Pa. under the new conditions specified for gun stores. The store had closed last week when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered a shut down of non-essential businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

On Friday, March 20, 2020, staff members performed 210,308 checks, the highest number for a single day in NICS history. Four other days, Saturday, March 21, 2020 (4th); Thursday, March 19, 2020 (5th); Tuesday, March 17, 2020 (9th); and Wednesday, March 18, 2020 (10th) also appeared in the top ten busiest single days. The other five busiest single days fell on various Black Fridays, according to the Highest Days/Weeks report.

NICS examiner
Courtesy:
FBI

In West Virginia, statistics on firearm background checks were similarly up in March (26,346), nearly 6,000 from February and nearly 10,000 from January. While West Virginia has recorded higher months over the years, March 2020 was the state’s highest total since March 2018, according to the NICS Month/Year by State report.

You can find further statistics and breakdowns of the numbers on the NICS website.

It is important to note that the statistics mentioned above are of firearms background checks and not gun sales. NICS includes the following disclaimer on its statistical reports:

These statistics represent the number of firearm background checks initiated through the NICS. They do not represent the number of firearms sold. Based on varying state laws and purchase scenarios, a one-to-one correlation cannot be made between a firearm background check and a firearm sale.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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