Record 300,000 gun sales blocked by background checks last year

The U.S. background check system prevented more than 300,000 firearm sales in 2020, a record amount indicating that nearly twice as many sales were blocked than the year before.

Citing FBI data provided by Everytown for Gun Safety, The Associated Press reported that 42 percent of those denied sales of a firearm had previous felony convictions.

The news comes as the number of potential gun buyers increased over the past two years from 0.6 percent to 0.8 percent, according to AP.

ADVERTISEMENT

One expert told the wire service that the increase in declined sales may be due to the fact that first-time buyers who have a previous conviction are unaware that they are legally prohibited from owning guns.

“Some may have a felony conviction on their record and not think about it,” UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, who specializes in gun policy, told the AP.

Winkler added that although making a false statement in a background check is a felony punishable by prison time, most are not prosecuted for essentially lying on a form filled out before making a purchase.

U.S. gun sales surged during the COVID-19 pandemic last year. CNN reported that around 23 million guns were sold in 2020, a 65 percent increase from 2019, when 13.9 million guns were sold.

Of those who were prevented from purchasing guns, 16 percent were blocked by state laws and 12 percent were blocked due to reasons related to domestic violence, according to the AP. 

“There’s no question that background checks work, but the system is working overtime to prevent a record number of people with dangerous prohibitors from being able to buy firearms,” Everytown research director Sarah Burd-Sharps said. “The loopholes in the law allow people to avoid the system, even if they just meet online or at a gun show for the first time.”

ADVERTISEMENT

GOP governors across the country have signed legislation to loosen firearm restrictions.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) both recently signed legislation allowing most adults to carry firearms without permits. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) took it a step further, signing a law that prohibits state police from enforcing federal gun laws.

Democratic lawmakers have argued that the law signed by Parson is unconstitutional and violates a clause that stipulates state laws cannot overrule federal law. The city of St. Louis and St. Louis County filed a lawsuit on Monday seeking to overturn the law.

In California, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez issued a ruling overturning the state's 30-year ban on assault weapons, comparing the weapon to a "Swiss Army Knife."

On Monday, a panel of three judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals placed a hold on Benitez's decision.