More than 300 people banned from owning guns were able to buy them last year in Maryland because the state police were overwhelmed with background check requests, the Baltimore Sun reports. People with histories of mental illness or convictions for violent misdemeanors, felons and fugitives were able to obtain and keep guns for three months or longer before state police reviewed the sales, said records released by request to the Sun. Maryland State Police finally cleared the backlog of background-check requests last week that began more than a year ago and once stood at 60,000, leading to months-long delays in investigating thousands of firearm transactions.
Police say a team of undercover troopers has recovered nearly all of the 364 firearms sold to people barred from owning them, but four guns have not been retrieved. “To us, the danger has not passed,” state police spokesman Greg Shipley said. Nine transactions have been referred to prosecutors as knowingly illegal sales, he said. Over the course of last year, dealers released 51,812 guns before a background check was completed. They could legally do that because of a loophole that allows them to give out firearms after waiting a week, regardless of whether the check is done. Normally, the seven-day waiting period provides plenty of time for state troopers to conduct the check and notify dealers. A surge in gun-buying last year, prompted by the Newtown, CT, school shooting, overwhelmed the system beginning in January 2013.