FBI Data Shows Background Checks Stopped 300,000 Illegal Gun Sales in 2020

Criminal Background Check

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

Statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealed that more than 300,000 illegal firearm sales were blocked by background checks in 2020, the highest number of annual denials ever and almost double the nearly 169,000 denials reported by the FBI in 2019, according to a press release from Everytown for Gun Safety.

The data – which was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – includes both denials from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and from states that conduct point-of-contact sales. To date, the background check system has now blocked over 4 million illegal firearm sales since 1994.

The surge in firearm sales in 2020 was accompanied by a surge of prohibited purchasers trying to buy guns as the denial rate in 2020 was 31 percent higher than the denial rate in 2019. These numbers may be undercounted due to incomplete data received from states, according to FBI response letters accompanying the data.

“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,” Sarah Burd-Sharps, Director of Research at Everytown, the largest gun violence prevention organization in America, stated in the press release.

In January 2021, ESR News reported that the FBI conducted a record-high 39.7 million firearm background checks for gun purchases in 2020, a 40 percent surge over the previous record total of 28.3 million from 2019, according to statistics from the NICS that checks for the criminal records of people who want to buy firearms.

Operated by the FBI, the NICS was established by the Brady Act of 1993 as a national namecheck system for federal firearms licensees (FFL) such as gun shop owners, pawnshop dealers, and retailers to use to determine whether a person can legally buy a firearm. To learn more about the NICS, visit www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/nics.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check provider that was ranked the number one screening firm by HRO Today in 2020 – offers employers background checks for employment purposes in a variety of industry specific solutions. To learn more about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.

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