The FBI is diverting staff from other areas and planning to dramatically increase its workforce dedicated to conducting background checks to meet surging demand for guns.
Guns and ammunition flew off store shelves last year, as the FBI conducted a record high 23.1 million firearm background checks in 2015. President Barack Obama’s executive action on gun-control laws earlier this month further fueled the gun-buying frenzy.
The FBI says it is so overwhelmed by the number of criminal background checks needed for potential new gun purchases that it has been forced to temporarily stop processing appeals from thousands of prospective gun buyers who have been denied a gun purchase, according to USA Today.
Instead of working on some 7,100 appeals, the FBI’s 70 appeals analysts are processing criminal background checks for new gun purchases through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a task they’ve been assigned since October.
Stephen Morris, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) division, told USA Today that the shift was necessary to help the agency meet a swell of firearm background check requests, as Americans rushed out to buy guns in the wake of mass shootings and an increased fervor in the nationwide debate about gun control.
“The last several months, we’ve kind of found ourselves in a perfect storm,” Morris explained.
Last year was huge for gun sales. Not only does 2015 hold the annual record for firearm background checks, it also holds the record for the most checks conducted in a single day and the most checks conducted in a month (December).
Background checks for prospective gun buyers are expected to continue their climb in 2016, with an anticipated 6.5 percent increase, the Wall Street Journal reports.
In addition to reassigning its appeals analysts, the FBI has canceled all annual leave for its more than 400 employees who process background checks and temporarily pulled personnel from other jobs to help keep up with the demand.
Kim Del Greco, section chief of the NICS unit, told the WSJ that she expects to bring on an extra 100 people this year and, if funding is approved, an additional 100 workers could be added in 2017.
Of course, it’s not clear how long the gun-buying frenzy will last.
After record high gun sales in late 2013 — which came in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 20 children and six adults, among others — gun and ammo sales nose-dived in January 2014, once fears over tighter gun-control laws subsided.
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