WPRI 12 News Washington DC Bureau

As gun sales surge, lawmakers aim to shore up background checks

Washington DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) ─ As gun sales remain strong across the country, Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, are calling for strict adherence to federal background check laws.

Both senators have sent a letter asking the FBI and ATF to ensure that the National Instant Background Check System can handle the demand, and that gun dealers have clear guidance on how to handle the surge in gun sales.

Blumenthal is concerned that growing anxiety because of the pandemic is what’s driving up gun sales.

“There is no reason that Americans need more guns at a time of COVID-19 than they did before,” Blumenthal said. “If there is tension or contention guns are more likely to prove deadly.”

Last month alone, the FBI reported more than 3 million background checks. Murphy argues that there’s still a gap that needs to be filled.

“About 30% of all gun sales happen without a background check,” Murphy said. “You have a lot of folks that have a serious criminal history, or serious histories of mental illness who are also going out and buying weapons and at a time of high anxiety.”

“My view is that retailers selling guns are not an essential service,” Blumenthal added.

Senator Marco Rubio, R-Florida said the decision to allow gun sales amid the pandemic should be made locally.

“Obviously that’s conducted both at the federal and state level with our laws. In many places, these stores are now closed,” Rubio said.

New York grouped gun sellers with other non-essential businesses forced to close – a decision that already prompted a lawsuit from the National Rifle Association.

“With that you’re actually denying these law-abiding people of a constitutionally protected right,” NRA spokesperson Lars Dalseide said.

The NRA said preventing gun sales puts even more people in jeopardy during the pandemic.

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