In the first five months of 2021, 81,000 Americans – about 54 people per day – have died as a result of gun violence. “Where were yesterday’s mass shootings” is a tragically common question asked daily.
That death toll could have been much higher were it not for the federal background check system that, in just the past year, has prevented a record 300,000 people from legally purchasing firearms.
FBI records obtained by the group Everytown for Gun Safety and provided to The Associated Press show that criminal background checks blocked twice as many gun sales in 2020 as in the year prior. Some 42 percent of those denials were because the would-be purchasers had felony convictions.
Part of the reason for the huge increase in blocked gun sales is due to the record-setting demand for guns that was a by-product of the coronavirus pandemic and the social unrest that swept the country in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
Everytown’s research found that 16 percent of would-be gun buyers last year were prohibited by state laws, like the extreme-risk protection orders or red-flag laws passed in several states. Another 12 percent were related to domestic violence, either people subject to a protective order or convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime.
According to Sarah Burd-Sharps, Everytown’s director of research, the data shows how necessary the legislation is. “There’s no question that background checks work, but the system is working overtime to prevent a record number of people with dangerous prohibitors from being able to buy firearms,” she said in a statement. “The loopholes in the law allow people to avoid the system, even if they just meet online or at a gun show for the first time.”
Then, of course, there’s Texas, which last week decided to do away with all permitting requirements for guns. People in Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s state now are allowed to open carry firearms without the need to even register them.