Gun seizure orders from the FBI for failed background checks have reached a 25 year high, with the agency sending thousands of orders to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF), according to FBI data first reported by USA Today.
In 2020 and 2021, the FBI sent roughly 11,500 referrals to the ATF to seize firearms for criminal records, mental health histories, disqualifying military service records and other bans, leading to the largest call-back since the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) began recording data in 1998, according to USA Today. The increase in firearm seizures follows a record number of gun sales during the pandemic, as a record 39,326,079 background checks were completed in 2020 alone, according to FBI data.
“Historically, the NICS Section has experienced an increase in firearm retrieval referrals as increases in overall background check volume occurs,” a FBI spokesperson told USA Today. The FBI noted that the 2022 numbers are not yet available, and said that the currently reported seizures are only a fraction of the millions of background checks performed.
“The first thing you expect when there is a spike in gun sales is that there will be a corresponding increase in delayed denials,” Stephen Morris, a former assistant FBI director who once oversaw NICS operations, told USA Today.
— Darryl L Williamson (@DWilliamson2000) March 5, 2023
The data for 2022 is not available, but many states saw large upticks in background check requests as restrictive gun laws were introduced and passed around the country.
In November 2022, Oregon residents narrowly passed a gun law that requires background checks, firearm training, fingerprint collection and a permit to purchase a gun. Following the law’s passing, background checks jumped from 29,472 in October to 86,075 in November, according to Firearm Industry Trade Association (NSSF) data obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
In March 2022, Democratic Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed three gun laws that restrict gun usage, including where guns can be carried and what kinds of magazines can be made and sold. After signing the laws, background checks jumped from 39,247 in February to 59,419 in March, according to NSSF data.
In January, Illinois passed a ban on “assault weapons” that went into effect immediately. Background checks in Illinois were at 33,326 in November, jumping to 42,305 in December, according to NSSF data.
The ATF is tasked with investigating “any delayed denials referred to us from the FBI, especially those resulting in the transfer of a firearm to a person who is prohibited from possessing firearms,” the ATF told USA Today. “An increase in total background checks could foreseeably have a corresponding increase in delayed transactions and thus delayed denials.”
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