PA Background Checks Have Increased, But So Have Denials

With the surge in gun sales bogging down the NICS background check system, many people warned that prohibited people might well try and take advantage of things. After all, no return on a background check is as good as a pass after a certain point of time. Some argued that prohibited persons might well try and take advantage of that fact in an effort to get their hands on firearms.


I figured that was pretty unlikely. After all, criminals already had sources for guns.

Well, a news report out of Pennsylvania suggests that I might have been mistaken.

The number of firearms purchase checks conducted by state police shot up in the first quarter of 2020, and so did the number of denials.

State police reported Tuesday that they conducted 304,876 checks between January and March, nearly 40,000 more than for the same period in 2019.

Of the 2020 checks conducted through the Pennsylvania Instant Check System, 4,866 resulted in denials, compared to 3,260 denials for the first quarter of last year, police said.

Around 1,226 have been referred to law enforcement for investigation, apparently for false statements on the Form 4473. That’s more than twice the number from the same time period in 2019.

So, what gives?

Well, it seems that some people got the idea that they should try and pick up a gun amid the confusion. At least an additional 600 or so people did, apparently. But what about the rest?

Honestly, that could be any number of things. One, of course, is that it’s convicted felons who knowingly tried to buy a gun despite being prohibited.

Another may well have been people who pled out to something like a domestic violence charge because they wanted to put everything behind them who now feel like they need a gun. A buddy quips, “As long as you’re not a felon, you can buy a gun,” so he tries and is denied.

It’s possible that a number of these that were made in good faith by people who didn’t realize they were prohibited.


Of course, it’s also completely possible that a number of these denials are false denials. Maybe someone input a social security number in wrong or somehow got fumble-fingered and the NICS check squawked at it. That’s certainly possible too.

While there seems little doubt that an increased number of prohibited people are attempting to buy guns, including those who apparently know good and well they shouldn’t be buying guns, we don’t have really enough information about the data to know precisely what that means.

One thing we can tell, though, is that those prohibited people are not circumventing the background check system simply because of a bogged-down system. The NICS is flagging them and they’re not getting their guns. That was the great fear by anti-gunners and that looks to be a big old nothing.

Maybe, when things settle down a bit, we’ll be able to get some detailed information so we can really understand just what’s going on. Until then, there doesn’t appear to be much reason for anyone to worry, even if I was mistaken before.

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