Background Checks for Guns Increased by 40%, FBI Reports
Global pandemic. School and business closures. Unstable economy. Nationwide protests. Police brutality. The desire for self-protection.
These are some leading factors that may have resulted in the increase in gun sales in 2020. The FBI reported performing over 4.3 million firearm background checks in January 2021 alone, compared to 2.7 million background checks in January 2020. Total, 2020 saw a record 39.7 million background checks. While background checks do not equal gun sales, they go hand-in-hand.
Specifically, background checks reportedly jumped in March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, and in May and June following the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests. After the November Presidential election in 2020, background checks spiked again.
According to an estimate by the National Shooting Sports Foundation public affairs director, Mark Oliva, the 8 million first-time buyers are a significant factor in the skyrocketing gun sales. These buyers mostly include women, Black Americans, and senior citizens.
Do Gun Sales Correlate with Gun Crime?
While the Gun Violence Archive reports shootings in New York doubled and non-suicide gun deaths increased by roughly 25% last year, that doesn’t imply gun sales are connected to gun crimes. An NPR article states there is no current cause-effect relationship between these sales and weapons offenses, and Julia Schleimer of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis further confirms this.
She said, "It's a real challenge to try and disentangle the role of any one single potential cause … It's particularly challenging during the pandemic.” Despite these obstacles, Schleimer continues to study the effect of gun sales on shootings. Schleimer and her colleagues’ first study on the initial wave of gun purchases from March to May of 2020 found a connection between short-term spikes in sales and shootings. But that no longer holds ― the connection has faded.
However, data scientist and independent journalist Rob Arthur suggests an increase in the ratio of violent crimes involving guns to those that didn’t in 2020. "That suggested to me that there was some kind of substitution going on," Arthur stated in the NPR article. "People who were committing assaults had access to guns more in 2020 than they did before. And so they were essentially getting upgraded to a worse crime, assaulting someone with a gun, whereas before they might have done it without a gun."
However, Arthur’s assertions are merely speculation, not facts. It is far-fetched to claim that criminals are mostly comprised of last year’s first-time gun buyers, especially because background checks prohibit felons and other convicted criminals from buying these weapons. Not to mention, studies show most guns used in crimes are not first-time purchases, according to NPR.
Why Does This Matter?
With gun sales skyrocketing to a record number, police officers and law enforcement authorities are well-aware of the dangers this poses. After all, research strongly suggests a connection between gun sales and gun violence, although, it does not confirm such relationship.
Regardless of what the research shows, the threat of weapon crimes and violent offenses is significant. The Gun Violence Archive recorded 43,413 gun violence deaths in 2020, a 10% increase from 2019. Chicago shootings increased 53% in 2020 compared to 2019, and Los Angeles saw a 37.5% increase in incidents of shots fired in 2020, compared to 2019.
With this in mind, it is not surprising that police officers nationwide are concentrating their efforts on reducing gun violence and weapons crimes. If you are caught with an unregistered gun or use your gun to commit a crime, for instance, you could get in serious legal trouble.
If you are facing criminal charges in Denver, reach out to us at (303) 732-5048 to learn about your legal options.