Virginia Senate passes legislation addressing loophole surrounding gun sales

Virginia

FILE – In this April 25, 2019, file photo, a man looks at cases of firearms in the halls of the Indianapolis Convention Center where the National Rifle Association will be holding its 148th annual meeting in Indianapolis. The number of background checks conducted by federal authorities is on pace to break a record by the end of this year. (AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action is applauding the Virginia Senate for passing legislation to address a loophole surrounding gun sales.

The Charleston loophole allows gun sales to move forward by default after three business days—even if a background check has not been completed. The “No Check, No Sale” bill is aiming to close that loophole.

The increased volume of gun sales during the pandemic and delays in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) have highlighted concerns about the Charleston loophole––a gap in federal law (named after the loophole that allowed the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooter to acquire his firearm).

According to FBI data, the week of March 16th to the 22nd of 2020—the days following the President’s declaration of a national emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic—set the all-time record for the number of NICS background checks requested since the creation of the system over 20 years ago.

This surge in background checks has not slowed since then, with 9 out of the 10 highest weeks occurring since March 2020. And 3 out of the 5 highest weeks occurred in January 2021.

From March to November 2020, 30.3 million background checks were initiated across the country—a 43 percent increase over the same period in 2019—translating to an estimated 17.4 million guns sold, an 81 percent increase. Virginia experienced a 73 percent increase in background check requests and a 77% increase in estimated gun sales during the same period.

Every year more than 284,000 background checks take longer than three business days. According to FBI data obtained by Everytown, the pandemic has made matters worse: More than 294,000 background checks were unresolved after three business days and allowed to proceed between March and July 2020 alone—more than the total number in all of 2019.

Everytown estimates that the Charleston loophole resulted in transfers of guns to at least 7,500 prohibited purchasers, such as felons, domestic abusers, and fugitives, during 2020—more than the last two years combined.

The bill now heads to Governor Northam’s desk. 

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