The FBI conducted a record number of background checks in March, as gun control legislation loomed and the US was shaken by two mass shootings.
The bureau conducted approximately 4.7 million background checks in March 2021, a record for a single month and a 36 percent increase in background checks from February, CNN Business reports.
Background checks do not necessarily correlate with gun sales, which are not officially tracked in the United States, but are a good indicator for them.
The news of record background checks proved to be a further boon for the gun industry.
Bloomberg reports two major gun manufacturers saw a gain on the stock market on Thursday, with Sturm Ruger up 2.8 percent and Smith & Wesson up 3.8 percent.
Background checks reached a record high in March, a month with two mass shootings (stock)
March was only the second month to have 4 million background checks, with the other month being January 2021.
Sales of weapons typically rise following mass shootings and civil unrest.
Gun sales have already soared amid the pandemic and countrywide Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of George Floyd.
Second amendment advocates have also warned of tighter gun controls following the Capitol riots on January 6, and the inauguration of Democratic president Joe Biden.
The US was also shaken by two high-profile mass shootings in March.
On March 16, eight people were killed in a series of shootings at spas in the Atlanta area, including six Asian women, sparking allegations that it may have been a hate crime.
Robert Aaron Long, 21, has not yet been charged with a hate crime in connection with the attacks.
Less than a week later, a mass shooting occurred at the King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.
That attack, allegedly perpetrated by 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Al-Issa, resulted in 10 deaths.
On March 16, a series of fatal shootings at spas in the Atlanta area left eight people dead
Six of those who died in the March 16 attack were Asian women, sparking renewed protests against anti-Asian violence
A shooting at a King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colorado left 10 dead including police officer Eric Talley. Pictured is a memorial to Talley outside the Boulder police station
Both of the shootings renewed calls for gun control legislation, with President Joe Biden going as far as calling for a ban on assault weapons.
‘We can ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country once again,’ Biden said, encouraging lawmakers to act. ‘This should not be a partisan issue. It’s an American issue. It will save lives. American lives. We have to act.’
Former President Barack Obama released a statement after Biden’s comments, backing his former VP.
‘It will take time to root out the disaffection, racism and misogyny that fuels so many of these senseless acts of violence. But we can make it harder for those with hate in their hearts to buy weapons of war,’ Obama said in a statement.
‘We can overcome opposition by cowardly politicians and the pressure of a gun lobby that opposes any limit on the ability of anyone to assemble an arsenal,’ Obama continued. ‘We can, and we must.’
‘A once-in-a-century pandemic cannot be the only thing that slows mass shootings in this country,’ the ex-president added.
Prior to the shootings, the House of Representatives passed two bills related to gun control legislation.
The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 is aimed at expanding background checks for sales and transfers across the nation. One Democrat voted against it, while eight Republicans voted for it.
The Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, meanwhile, was designed to close a loophole that would allow some gun sales to go through before the completion of a background check. Two Democrats voted against it, while two Republicans voted for it.
The loophole was exploited by Dylann Roof when he made a legal purchase of a gun before killing nine at a historically Black church in Charleston in 2015.
While both bills passed the House of Representatives, neither has the votes to overcome the filibuster in the Senate without help from at least 10 Republicans.
The record months of background checks comes shortly after a record year for gun sales.
According to Fox Business, over 21 million background checks were conducted in 2020, a rise of 60 percent from 2019.
It was also 34 percent higher than 2016, which held the previous record for most background checks in a year.
Close to 23 million guns were sold in total in 2020, the National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates, including more than 8.4 million people purchased guns for the first time.
‘That’s a testament to the determination of the American worker that makes our freedoms possible,’ said Marc Oliva, a spokesperson for the NSSF.
Gun control legislation Joe Biden mentioned following Boulder shooting
Expanded background checks
Gun control advocates have spent years trying to tighten background checks for those wishing to make gun purchases.
A House-passed bill would require background checks for most gun sales and transfers. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer vowed Tuesday to bring it to the floor. The Senate “must confront a devastating truth” after a lack of congressional action on the issue for almost three decades, Schumer said.
Current law provides exemptions for private firearms sales to requirements imposed on licensed gun dealers.
The House-passed bill would close loopholes to ensure background checks are extended to private and online sales that often go undetected, including at gun shows. The legislation includes limited exceptions allowing transfers of firearms that are gifts from family, that are to prevent imminent harm or that are for use at a target range, among others.
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia have worked together for years to find compromise on background checks but have yet to propose anything that will pass.
President Biden on Tuesday called for the Senate to act on it. ‘I don’t need to wait another minute let alone an hour to take common sense steps that will save lives in the future,’ Biden said at the White House.
A Pew Research Center poll in September 2019 showed a wide majority of Americans – 88% – supported making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks, which is what the House-passed bill would do. Ninety-three percent of Democrats and 82% of Republicans were in favor of the policy.
Advocates also want to change or eliminate a provision in the law that allows gun purchases to go through if three business days have passed since a background check began.
The Charleston moniker is a reference to the white supremacist who gunned down nine black worshipers in Charleston at Mother Emanuel AME Church. A bill that passed the House would expand the period to 10 days. The bill is backed by House Majority Whip James C. Clyburn (D-S.C.).
Biden called specifically for closing the ‘Charleston loophole’ in his White House remarks.
Large-capacity ammo clips
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein has for years advocated for legislation to ban the sale and transfer of high-capacity ammunition clips, as well as ‘military-style assault weapons.’ She has joined with Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island to introduce identical legislation.
A ban on assault-style weapons enacted during the Clinton administration expired in 2004, 10 years after it was enacted.
‘We can ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country once again,’ Biden said Tuesday. ‘I got that done when I was a senator. It passed. It was the law for the longest time. And it brought down these mass killings. We should do it again.’
— Geoff Earle, Associated Press