- The Washington Times - Monday, May 4, 2020

Gun sales posted their fifth strong month in a row in April, though they fell from the monthly record set in March, according to analysis of FBI background check numbers released Monday.

The FBI says it recorded 2.9 million checks in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), down from 3.7 million in March, but still the fourth highest number ever. And when the coronavirus months of March and April are combined, it’s easily a two-month record.

NICS checks are a rough proxy for gun sales.

Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting said it estimates U.S. firearms sales in April reached 1.8 million, up 71% from the same month in 2019.

Since sales are often seasonal, analysts compare year-over-year increases to get a sense for the market.

Handgun sales are particularly hot right now, and the ratio of handguns to long guns reached a record in April, SAAF says.

“Once more, the spurt in firearms sales in April 2020 is particularly notable for its handgun component,” said Jurgen Brauer, chief economist at the organization.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group, did its own calculations and said between March and April, 4.2 million firearms were sold.

Everytown said it feared guns are being sold too quickly during the coronavirus crisis, saying some shops don’t have time to complete the sale. If a check isn’t completed in three business days, the gun is released.

The three-day rule exists so the government can’t indefinitely deny someone’s Second Amendment rights through approval delays — but gun control activists call it a dangerous “loophole” that means some guns are released to people who should be denied.

“The giant loopholes in America’s background check law make it all too likely that today’s surge in gun sales will lead to tomorrow’s surge in gun violence,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown.

Background checks usually are completed immediately in 90% of sales. But Republican senators, in a letter Monday, said that rate has fallen during the coronavirus gun-buying surge.

They said they had heard federal authorities are ordering some dealers to delay sales “well beyond three business days.”

The senators demanded the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) clarify the numbers and whether the three-day standard is being breached.

The senators also asked the ATF to say whether expired driver’s licenses are valid for gun purchases, at a time when shuttered motor vehicle offices have made it impossible to update ID cards.

ATF has previously said gun shops can conduct sidewalk sales to avoid crowding inside their establishments during the pandemic.

The surge in firearms sales has gun control activists worried, saying more guns in homes right now is dangerous.

Guns Down America, which tracks domestic violence data from localities, says nearly every state is reporting an increase in domestic violence calls during coronavirus.

“Another month of increased background checks means that countless Americans are bringing into their homes something even more dangerous than coronavirus — a gun,” said Igor Volsky, co-founder of the group.

April’s high sales come even though a handful of states had shuttered gun stores, deeming them nonessential businesses subject to governors’ shutdown orders.

The Trace, a website that specializes in gun policy, lists four states where sales were halted: New York, Michigan, Massachusetts and Washington. In California, decisions are left up to local officials, The Trace says.

The federal Department of Homeland Security, in its nonbinding national guidance, says gun shops should be deemed essential.

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