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March 2020 Breaks Record for NICS Background Checks: A Clear Indication of Surge in Gun Purchasing

Washington, D.C., April 1, 2020 - Today, the Federal Bureau of Investigations released data from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for March 2020, showing that 3,740,688 background checks were initiated in March 2020, more than any month since the system launched in 1998.

The data also shows that Friday, March 20, 2020 saw the highest number of background checks initiated in one day since 1998 and that the week of Monday, March 16 to Sunday, March 22, 2002, saw the highest number of background checks initiated in one week since 1998. Five days in March are now among the top ten days with the most background checks initiated since the federal NICS system was established in 1998, while three weeks in March are now among the top ten weeks.

Brady President Kris Brown shared:

“As a result of fears stoked by the National Rifle Association and other gun-industry groups around the coronavirus pandemic, we saw more federal background checks initiated in March 2020 than any other month on record. While not an exact correlation to gun sales, these numbers suggest that the NRA’s marketing tactics worked and have resulted in a surge of new weapons in communities across the country.

This boon for gun industry profits is a threat to public safety and is even more troubling given the Trump Administration’s recent guidance that gun stores should be designated “essential” and remain open during this crisis. In-person shopping for anything that is not truly essential endangers us all these days, which is why almost all stores and activities are shut down.

At a time when public health officials are urging us all to stay at home and maintain physical distance, the gun industry should be urging people to stay at home rather than lining up to stock up on guns.

Guns won’t save people from coronavirus.

A spike in gun sales also endangers Americans by increasing the proven dangers of guns in the home. We have already seen multiple examples of unintentional shootings from weapons purchased in response to fears around coronavirus. Aside from the real physical and emotional toll that these events take on victims and their families, during this pandemic these events place additional stress on our healthcare systems that are already straining to cope with coronavirus cases.

We know that the best way to remain safe during this crisis is to follow the advice of public health officials and that adding guns to a situation never makes it safer.

First-time gun owners can pose additional risks, especially if they do not have proper training and expertise that will be difficult to obtain right now. We urge gun owners, new or otherwise, to ensure that their weapons are stored properly: unloaded, locked in a safe and with ammunition locked separately.

Ensuring guns are stored locked and unloaded is an essential and tangible way to reduce “Family Fire,” shootings involving an improperly stored or misused gun found in the home. We know that everyday in the United States approximately eight children and teens are injured or killed due to unsecured weapons. Sadly, we have already seen these incidents during this crisis. Guns in the home also increase the risk of homicide in a domestic violence incident by up to 500 percent and increase the likelihood of a fatal outcome in the case of a suicide attempt - both elements of Family Fire.

During this time, we must all work together and do our part to ensure that our communities and our country pulls through this unprecedented public health crisis. That must include safely storing firearms to reduce Family Fire.”

About Family Fire:

Incidents of Family Fire are shootings facilitated by unsecured firearms. Unintentional shootings, suicide, and intentional shootings are all components of Family Fire. For more information visit: EndFamilyFire.org

Family Fire Statistics:

  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.
  • 51 percent of all suicide fatalities are by firearm
  • The risk of death by suicide is three times greater for those in homes with loaded firearms than for those in homes with unloaded guns.
  • Individuals living in homes where guns are stored unlocked have double the risk of dying from suicide than those where firearms are locked up.
  • Eight children and teens are injured or killed a day due to an unlocked or unsupervised gun in the home.
  • Improvements in safe storage practices among gun owners, such as locking all household firearms, could reduce family fire among youth as much as 30 percent.
  • Keeping guns locked and unloaded reduces family fire risk by 73 percent.

Facts About Guns and Domestic Violence in the United States:

  • About every 16 hours, a woman is shot and killed by a former or current partner;
  • 54 percent of mass shootings are related to domestic or family violence;
  • Women who were killed by a spouse, intimate partner, or close relative were 7 times more likely to have lived in homes with guns;
  • 1 out of every 15 children in the U.S. is exposed to the effects of intimate partner violence yearly; and
  • When there is a gun in a home with a history of domestic violence, there is a 500% higher chance that a woman will be murdered.

If you or someone you know needs help or a safe place, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or go to thehotline.org to chat without having to say a word. The National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE is available to victims and survivors, and can refer you to a local crisis center.

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Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.


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