SALT LAKE CITY
(AP) — The number of people
barred from purchasing firearms
through the United States
' background check system reached an all-time high of more than 300,000 last year, despite a surge in firearm sales, according to new data obtained by the gun-control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety
According to FBI
data provided to The Associated Press
, background checks
prevented nearly twice as many gun sales
in 2020 as they did the previous year, with felony convictions accounting for nearly 42% of those denials.
The rise in blocked gun sales corresponds largely with the record-breaking surge in sales that began with the coronavirus pandemic
and has continued into this year, despite historic protests against police brutality
, deep political divisions, and an insurgency at the United States Capitol
It comes as Congress
has failed to pass major gun legislation despite a Democratic
majority and President Joe Biden
's push. A bill to strengthen background checks is stalled in the Senate
. The House
passed legislation in March requiring checks on all sales and transfers, as well as an expanded 10-day review for gun purchases.
According to the data, the rate of barred would-be gun buyers increased slightly over the previous two years, from about 0.6% to 0.8%. This could be due in part to the fact that many of those who tried to get guns
in 2020 were doing so for the first time and may not have been aware that they were legally barred from owning them, according to Adam Winkler, a UCLA Law
professor specializing in gun policy.
“Some people may have a felony conviction on their record and are unaware of it,” he explained.
Making a false statement in connection with a background check is a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison
and a hefty fine
, but he said few people are prosecuted for what amounts to lying on the form filled out before a gun purchase.
According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report, only 12 of the 112,000 people denied a gun purchase were federally prosecuted in 2017, accounting for about 0.01%, owing to limited resources for the time-consuming investigations.
According to Everytown's research
, 16% of would-be gun buyers in 2020 were prohibited by state law, such as extreme-risk protection orders or red-flag laws passed in several states, and another 12% were related to domestic violence
, either people subject to a protective order or people convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime
According to Sarah Burd-Sharps, Everytown's director of research, the data shows how critical the legislation is.
“There is no doubt
that background checks work
,” she said in a statement, “but the system is working overtime to keep a record number of people with dangerous prohibitors from being able to buy firearms.” “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.”
Gun rights advocates have lobbied against the proposal, and Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, said the increase in denials could be due to more states updating their records of restricted people, as well as false positives.
The data also comes as a growing number of conservative-leaning states eliminate requirements for people to obtain background checks and training in order to carry firearms in public.
became the latest of about 20 states to drop permitting requirements last week, continuing a trend that began several years ago. Gun rights groups say the requirements are an unfair burden on law-abiding gun owners, but firearm safety groups fear it is a dangerous trend that will allow more firearms into the hands of the wrong people.
The FBI releases denial data, but Everytown collects it by year and includes data from states such as California
that conduct their own background checks.