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FBI Fails to Finish 316,000 Firearms Background Checks Last Year Amid Surge in Gun Sales

By Steve Neavling

The FBI has been unable to keep pace with the surge in firearms sales, failing to finish more than 316,000 background checks in the first nine months of 2020, according to data obtained by FiveThirtyEight.

The FBI, which runs America’s gun background check system, processes an average of 8.6 million firearms checks in an average year. In 2020, the FBI processed more than 12.76 million background checks. 

The missed background checks come at a time when cities are reeling from a rise in gun violence.  

By law, gun dealers can legally sell a firearm without a completed background check if the FBI is delayed by more than three business days. 

The number of incomplete background checks have been increasing ever year. In 2014, the bureau did not complete 2.1% of the background checks. In 2019, 2.5% of the backgrounds weren’t finished. And in the first nine months of last year, that number rose to 3.4%. 

In a statement, the FBI said its ability to keep pace with background checks “depends on the availability of relevant information and records provided by federal, state, local, and tribal agencies.”

The bureau added that it has “reallocated resources to help ensure that it can continue processing background checks efficiently.”


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