FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — America has set a record for the number of firearm background checks run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, month-by-month, to start a year.
“There’s really no rhyme or reason why there can be an uptick,” said Cpl. Roger Dunlap, the corporal over the permits unit for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.
2019 is the first year where NICS firearm background checks have surpassed 2 million every month, January through June, since the NICS database was created in November 1998.
The database became operational on Nov. 30, 1998, five years after the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was enacted. Amending the Gun Control Act of 1968, interim previsions of the Brady Law became effective on Feb. 28, 1994 and ceased to apply on Nov. 30, 1998, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The Brady Act was named after James Brady, who served as White House Press Secretary under President Ronald Reagan. Brady was shot by John W. Hinkley on March 30, 1981, during an assassination attempt against Reagan. Reagan suffered a punctured lung but survived. Brady was shot in the head and critically wounded. Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy was shot in the side and District of Columbia policeman Thomas Delahanty was shot in the neck.
Brady, who was most seriously injured in the attack, became an advocate for gun-control legislation, leading to the Brady Act’s signing into law by President Bill Clinton.
“We just do their background, if they qualify we issue, if they don’t qualify, we don’t,” said Dunlap, of part of what the sheriff’s office does to determine if someone should be issued a purchase or concealed carry permit.
The lengthy list of prohibitions from being issued a permit includes factors varying from being convicted of several crimes, to the sheriff’s office not being satisfied as to good moral character of an applicant. Dunlap specifically also mentioned mental health as another reason they could deny someone a permit.
“If something happens in the country, or something happens locally, people wanna come get a gun,” Dunlap said.
North Carolina only allows permits for protection of a home, business, person, family or property, target shooting, collecting and hunting.
“I just moved into a house and it’s just me and my children,” said Oshea Oglesby, who was at the sheriff’s office to fill out a permit application. “I just recently got my car broken into twice. Maybe it’s time I have something so I can make sure I’m able to protect my children if someone decides to not leave it at the car, but try to come in the house.”
Oglesby attributed the amount of people attempting to buy firearms to recent violence locally, nationally and internationally.
The highest number of background checks run through the NICS system was in December 2015, when there were 3,314,594. December 2015, was the month of the San Bernardino shooting, the month following several coordinated ISIS attacks and in the middle of an unprecedented presidential race.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation says the number of background checks initiated through NICS does not represent the number of firearms sold due to varying state laws and purchase scenarios.
However, the sheriff’s office says they only turn down about 3 percent of people who apply for a purchase permit and about 1 percent of the people applying for concealed.
As of June 30, the sheriff’s office saw 2,684 people apply for concealed permits and 3,169 apply for purchase permits in 2019.
“We roughly see 100 people a day here,” Dunlap said.
The largest number of NICS checks run thus far in 2019 were in March, when there were 2,644,851.
“As soon as we started, like the day that we opened, it just blew up,” said Jacob Gray, manager of Liberty Safe of Kernersville, where they sell both safes and firearms. “I’ve never been in a position to where it hasn’t been busy.”
Gray says they opened their Kernersville location in November 2017. NICS checks have surpassed the 2-million mark 17 of the 20 months since.
“People love shooting. People love getting out and using their guns and using them for what they’re for,” Gray said.
Gray added that while about 85 to 90 percent of their customers buy firearms to go target shooting, they still often sell to people looking for protection.
“They’re afraid, I mean, to get out of their car and walk to their house or walk from the hospital through the parking deck to their car,” he said, detailing the store’s sales of concealed carry pocket books and hammerless revolvers. “Just so they can have their weapon on ready, walking through and wish somebody would.”
Nine of the top 10 highest days of NICS firearm background checks, November 30, 1998-June 30, 2019, fell in November or December. Six of those dates fell on Black Friday.
The FBI says there have been 1,647,199 federal denials between Nov. 30, 1998 and June 30, 2019. 863,060 of the denials were for applicants being convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year or a misdemeanor punishable by more than two years.