WASHINGTON — The FBI was flooded Friday with more than 200,000 background check requests for gun purchases, setting a new single day record, the bureau reported Saturday.
In all, the FBI fielded 203,086 requests on Black Friday, up from the previous single-day highs of 185,713 last year and 185,345 in 2015. The two previous records also were recorded on Black Friday.
Gun checks, required for purchases at federally licensed firearm dealers, are not a measure of actual gun sales. The number of firearms sold Friday is likely higher because multiple firearms can be included in one transaction by a single buyer.
The surging numbers received by the bureau’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), comes just days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a sweeping review of the system, which allowed a court-martialed Air Force veteran to purchase the rifle used earlier this month to kill 25 people inside a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church.
In many cases, a background check may show a record of arrest, but there is no additional information to indicate whether the case was dismissed or resulted in a felony conviction which would prohibit a gun purchase.
The mere record of arrest is not enough to prohibit a gun sale, so FBI analysts must race to fill such information gaps within the three-day time period allotted for each check. The search sometimes requires inquiries to police departments, courthouses and prisons across the country to match final dispositions to the incomplete records.
Federal authorities, meanwhile, have for years openly complained that incomplete databases and staff shortages make it difficult to keep pace with the constant stream of background checks required of most new gun purchasers and efficiently trace firearms used in crimes.
In a statement earlier this week, Sessions said NICS “is critical for us to be able to keep guns out of the hands of those that are prohibited from owning them.” He said the Texas shooting “revealed that relevant information may not be getting reported to the NICS — this is alarming and it is unacceptable.”
While gun sales have been surging in recent years — largely driven by fears of more restrictive gun laws proposed during the Obama administration — gun check numbers had leveled off in the first months of the pro-gun Trump administration.