Coronavirus Gun Sale Surge Overwhelms State, Federal Background Check Systems

In this photo taken Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, gun shop owner Tiffany Teasdale stands with wal
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

The gun sales surge accompanying the Chinese conronavirus pandemic is overwhelming both state and federal background check systems.

On March 19, 2020, Breitbart News reported National Shooting Sports Foundation numbers showing gun sales in the U.S. had jumped 300 percent above where they were at the same point in time last year. Thereafter, various Federal Firearm License holders (FFLs) contacted Breitbart News to talk of calling into the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Checks (NICS) to do a background check for a pending sale, only to be placed on hold for hours and/or, in some cases, to have the line disconnected.

An FFL from a western state told Breitbart News he has a stack of background checks forms–ATF form 4473–already filled out by customers who came into the store to purchase firearms during the sales surge. The FFL arrives at store early in the morning and places a call to the FBI NICS number simply to be placed in the queue, and once he is talking to someone he runs as many of the background checks as he can before being disconnected.

An FFL in a midwestern state told Breitbart News he lost “$10,000 to “$12,000” in sales on Friday, March 20, 2020, due to delays in NICS response to phone calls for background checks.

An FFL in a southern state told a similar story after having so many struggles with NICS that he thought the background check system had simply been shut down.

The Scranton Times-Tribune reports a similar story on the state-level background check system in Pennsylvania. They noted that on March 18, 2020, “The state police announced the computer system that conducts background checks on firearms purchases, which is called the Pennsylvania Instant Check System, crashed twice in one day.”

This failure came as gun transactions on March 19, 2020, jumped over 300 percent higher than they were on March 19, 2019.

Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Records and Identification’s Maj. Gary Dance stressed the crashing of the state’s background check system was not due to an intentional state response to the coronavirus. Rather, the system was just overwhelmed.

AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkinsa weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him at You can sign up to get Down Range at



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