The FBI was flooded Friday with 203,086 background check requests for gun purchases, setting a new single day record, reports USA Today. The two previous records, also on Black Friday, were 185,713 last year and 185,345 in 2015.
Gun checks, required for purchases at federally licensed firearm dealers, are not a measure of actual gun sales. The number of firearms sold Friday is higher because multiple firearms can be included in one transaction by a single buyer. The surging numbers received by the bureau’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), comes two days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a sweeping review of the system, which allowed a court-martialed Air Force veteran to purchase the rifle used this month to kill 25 people inside a Sutherland Springs, Tx., church.
The Air Force acknowledged it had not provided the FBI with details of a court martial, which likely would have blocked the 2016 sale of the murder weapon to Devin Kelley.
Sessions ordered the FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to review the NICS system. The breakdown in the Kelley case highlighted longstanding problems within the system, which for more than 20 years has served as the centerpiece of the government’s effort to block criminals from obtaining firearms.
It has struggled to keep pace with the volume of firearm transactions and properly maintain the databases of criminal and mental health records necessary to determine whether buyers are eligible to purchase guns. The office processed a record 27.5 million background checks in 2016. In many cases, a background check may show a record of arrest, but there is no additional information to indicate whether the case was dismissed or resulted in a felony conviction which would prohibit a gun purchase.
In a related development, The Supreme Court, which has avoided major gun cases for seven years, on Monday declined to hear a challenge backed by the National Rifle Association to Maryland’s 2013 ban on assault weapons enacted after a Connecticut school massacre, Reuters reports.
The court rejected an appeal by Maryland residents, firearms dealers and the state NRA association, who argued that the ban violated their right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment.
The case focused on weapons that have become a recurring feature in U.S. mass shootings, including the Nov. 5 attack at a Texas church that killed 26 people, the Oct. 1 Las Vegas concert massacre that killed 58 people, and the 2012 killing of 20 schoolchildren and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct., which prompted Maryland’s law. The challengers, who had sued Maryland’s governor and other officials in 2013, were appealing a ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the state’s law.
Ruling 10-4, the Fourth Circuit said it had no power to extend constitutional protections to “weapons of war.” Maryland’s ban outlaws “assault long guns,” mostly semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 and AK-47, as well as large-capacity magazines, which prevent the need for frequent reloading. Backed by the NRA, the plaintiffs said that semi-automatic rifles are in common use and that law-abiding citizens should not be deprived of them.