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Almost 300,000 guns sold without background checks as pandemic overwhelmed system
The 'Charleston Loophole' has likely allowed thousands of guns to end up in the hands of people who would have failed a federal background check.
- In 2020, both gun sales and gun violence have increased on a year-over-year basis.
- Amid surging demand for guns, a recent report from the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety suggests that the nation's background-check system has been overwhelmed.
- One likely consequence: nearly 300,000 people were able to buy guns without passing a background check.
As U.S. gun sales continue to surge amid the pandemic, how is the nation's background-check system keeping up?
Not so well, suggests a recent report from Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit gun-control advocacy group.
The report, which was based on FOIA-retrieved F.B.I data, stated that the "National Instant Criminal Background Check system (NICS) is falling behind due to surging gun sales during the pandemic," and that there's been "a 54% increase in the number of background checks that were delayed past three days in the March through July period, as compared with the same time last year."
Why is the three-day mark important? Federal law currently requires people to pass a background check when buying a gun from a licensed dealer. Most background checks go through in minutes. But some take longer, and the F.B.I. has a total of three business days to pass or deny the check. However, if the bureau gives no answer after three days, the person can buy the gun legally.
Credit: Mario Tama / Getty
This is often called the "Charleston Loophole," named after the infamous South Carolina shooting where 21-year-old Dylan Roof killed nine people with a gun he bought after the F.B.I. took longer than three days to clear his background check. The shooter, who had admitted to drug possession, would've failed the background check without the loophole.
Typically, the F.B.I. only takes extra processing time on about 11 percent of background checks, while about 3 percent of checks take longer than three days. However, from March to July, more than 5 percent of all background checks took longer than three days.
John Moore/Getty Images
Considering there were 5.86 million background checks during that period, that means some 294,683 people may have bought a gun without passing a background check. The actual number is probably lower, given that 19 states and the District of Columbia allow authorities more than three days to process background checks, or outright prohibit gun sales if a background check is incomplete.
Is the U.S. already suffering consequences from surging gun sales? It's hard to say. Crime, in general, has mostly fallen across the nation during the pandemic. Gun violence in many major American cities has spiked. A recent Wall Street Journal report found that, among the nation's 50 largest cities, reported homicides were up 24 percent, on a year-over-year basis.
A 'perfect storm'
Some researchers have linked the uptick in violence to more guns in the hands of Americans. On the other hand, the increase could stem not only from more guns, but also from fewer gun arrests.
For example, an analysis recently published by The New York Times found that the increase in shootings in New York City is likely linked to the fact that police have been arresting far fewer people for firearms violations, potentially because they're deterred or distracted by the protests and pandemic.
Still, the exact causal factors remain unclear, given the strange confluence of stressors present in 2020: pandemic anxiety, political turmoil, national protests over the killing of George Floyd. In any case, it seems safe to expect the national background-check system, as is, to become dangerously overwhelmed when the demand for guns skyrockets.
"Surges in gun buying, coupled with dangerous loopholes that put guns in the hands of those who shouldn't have them, create a perfect storm to worsen our already dire public health crisis," reads a recent Everytown report.
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What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Philosophers have been asking the question for hundreds of years. Now neuroscientists are joining the quest to find out.
- The debate over whether or not humans have free will is centuries old and ongoing. While studies have confirmed that our brains perform many tasks without conscious effort, there remains the question of how much we control and when it matters.
- According to Dr. Uri Maoz, it comes down to what your definition of free will is and to learning more about how we make decisions versus when it is ok for our brain to subconsciously control our actions and movements.
- "If we understand the interplay between conscious and unconscious," says Maoz, "it might help us realize what we can control and what we can't."
We’ve mapped a million previously undiscovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way. Take the virtual tour here.
See the most detailed survey of the southern sky ever carried out using radio waves.
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