A record number of Illinois background checks have been carried out in March related to firearms sales. These record numbers saw a peak within the last two weeks of March. The second half of the month seeing increased concerns over the coronavirus pandemic and as the lock down took effect. Over 60,000 background checks were processed with around 80% of those checks coming in the last two weeks of March. This figure is almost double the Illinois background checks from February and represents a hike of around 35% on the same time last year. Licensed gun dealers are authorised by The Firearms Transfer Inquiry Program. Within the stay at home order effective March 21st Gun shops are classed as an essential business. The Illinois State Police have also eased renewal requirements for FOID (Firearms Owner’s Identification Cards) along with concealed carry permits during the pandemic and for the following twelve months if renewal applications are submitted prior to the expiration date. Permit holders will also not be required to submit confirmation of the 3 hour training requirement but will have twelve months to do so at the end of the disaster proclamation which currently runs through April 30th.
Before the outbreak of the pandemic Illinois State Police were being sued by gun rights groups for processing delays (concealed carry and FOID), a plaintiff in the lawsuit being the Illinois State Rifle Association who negotiated with State police over the new rules. However, notably, the stay at home order has not stifled gun violence and data confirms shootings are up by 10% on this time last year. The National Instant Background Check System recorded 3.7 million checks in March which was 34% up on February and exceeded the previous record by 12%, that record being the month of December 2015. However the NICS system is not an exact science and does not portray the whole picture as background checks can be used for multiple gun purchase and in some cases aren’t even related to gun purchase. Some states where demand for guns have risen substantially and more than doubled in March are Arizona, Michigan, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
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