Press Release

Background Check Numbers Surge Again; Major Retailers DICK’S, Walmart Must Pause Sales of Guns and Ammunition During Holiday Shopping Season

For Release:


Oriana Korin
Igor Volsky

WASHINGTON–– Guns Down America, a bolder, broader movement calling for dramatically fewer guns in America, and the American Federation of Teachers, released the following statement after the FBI reported that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System conducted 3.6 million screenings in November, the seventh month in 2020 in which background checks topped 3 million.

“These new numbers continue a deadly trend of surging gun sales during the pandemic. Sadly, we are starting to see gun deaths climb now too and as we enter the holiday season, those numbers will likely increase. Sporting goods retailers that sell firearms have a responsibility to pause gun sales for the well-being of their customers and employees,” said Guns Down America Executive Director Igor Volsky. 

"All around the country we know that individuals and families alike are struggling with the effects of isolation, illness, grief, economic hardship and invisible losses. As COVID ravages our communities with a third record-setting surge, desperation and despair are finding ripe conditions to take root. Adding more guns to this equation makes the pandemic even more deadly," said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. "Now more than ever we need to take care of one another and help each other get through this long tunnel toward the promise of recovery on the horizon, and corporate America has a chance to be good corporate citizens and prioritize the health and safety of our communities."

Guns Down America and the American Federation of Teachers are asking major retailers to put public safety first and pause the sale of firearms and ammunition during the holiday shopping season. Over the course of 10 years, from 2009 to 2018, October, November and December accounted for roughly 30% of all likely firearm sales. Black Friday and the days around Christmas usually make up the largest number of background check requests in a single day each year.

Over the last few years, retailers like DICK’S Sporting Goods and Walmart have recognized the danger of firearms and started to step back from firearm sales -- and saw their profits spike

This year, a significant number of Americans, some of them first-time gun buyers, rushed out to purchase firearms in response to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. Homicides have increased in some of our major cities, as have unintentional shootings -- particularly amongst children

Though firearm suicides typically dip in December and increase in the Spring, this year, we’ve witnessed a spike in suicides. Federal surveys show 40 percent of Americans and 75 percent of young adults are grappling with at least one mental health or drug-related problem and one in four young adults had thought about killing themselves in the past 30 days. Every five hours, someone under 21 dies by gun suicide and access to a gun triples the risk of death by suicide. Recent data has also indicated a troubling increase in suicide among African Amercan youth.

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.