Gun background checks soar to all-time high as coronavirus fears cause spike in sales, FBI figures suggest

Louis Staples
Thursday 02 April 2020 14:30
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(iStock)

In case you hadn’t noticed, the world is going through quite a turbulent time right now. During the coronavirus pandemic, emotions are high and no one really knows what the future holds.

But it looks like Americans are responding to the pandemic in perhaps the most American way ever: by buying guns. Lots of guns.

According to the latest FBI figures, background checks required to buy firearms have spiked to record numbers in March 2020.

There were 3.7 million background checks done in March, which is the most for a single month since the online system was launched in 1998. The previous record for checks conducted during one month was 3.3 million in December 2015,

This doesn’t mean that every person who requested a background check went on to purchase a firearm. But equally some people could have bought multiple guns using one background check.

The rush, which is thought to be as a result of panic relating to safety during the coronavirus crisis, has inflamed tensions between Second Amendment advocates and gun control supporters. Pro-gun groups say the background check spike affirms that Americans support the right to bear arms. But opponents say that adding firearms into stressed households filled with people who are nervous about lockdown might lead to increased levels of domestic violence and suicides.

The FBI figures show that March had five of the top 10 days ever for background checks, including the day with the most, March 20, when more than 210,000 checks were conducted. In comparison, 2.64 million checks were conducted in March 2019, more than a million fewer than last month.

US cities and states have also been debating whether gun shops should be considered “essential businesses” which can remain open during lockdown.

The Texas attorney general issued a legal opinion saying emergency orders shuttering gun shops are unconstitutional. But in New Orleans the mayor is seeking to restrict sales of firearms and ammunition during this time.

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