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.
Credit: Mario Tama / Getty<p>This is often called the <a href="https://www.vox.com/2019/3/6/18253165/background-check-bill-charleston-loophole" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">"Charleston Loophole,"</a> 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.</p><p>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.</p>
John Moore/Getty Images<p>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.<br></p><p>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 <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/05/us/chicago-shootings.html?searchResultPosition=6" target="_blank">has spiked</a>. A recent Wall Street Journal <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/homicide-spike-cities-chicago-newyork-detroit-us-crime-police-lockdown-coronavirus-protests-11596395181" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> found that, among the nation's 50 largest cities, reported homicides were up 24 percent, on a year-over-year basis.</p>
A 'perfect storm'<p>Some researchers have <a href="https://health.ucdavis.edu/health-news/newsroom/surge-in-firearm-purchasing-during-pandemics-onset-linked-to-higher-rates-of-firearm-violence-in-us-/2020/07" target="_blank">linked the uptick in violence to more guns in the hands of Americans</a>. On the other hand, the increase could stem not only from more guns, but also from fewer gun arrests. </p><p>For example, an <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/04/nyregion/nyc-shootings-coronavirus.html?searchResultPosition=2" target="_blank">analysis recently published by The New York Times</a> 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.</p><p>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.</p><p>"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 <a href="https://everytownresearch.org/report/covid-default-proceed/" target="_blank">Everytown report</a>.</p>
From gun control to immigration, Americans remain split on a handful of contentious issues.
- The data comes from a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.
- Climate change, guns, and the environment ranked at the top of the list, which climate change representing the widest partisan gap.
- The survey also revealed some interesting splits along generational and gender lines.
Pew Research Center
1. Climate change<p>A majority of Americans say climate change should be a top priority for Congress and the president, marking a 14 percent increase from four years ago. But that concern is not bipartisan: 78 percent of Democrats called it a top policy priority in 2020, compared to just 21 percent of Republicans.<br></p><p>According to past Pew surveys, there's been no other year in which the two parties have been more divided on climate change, and it was the most divisive issue among the issues covered in the recent survey. So what explains the gap?</p><p>Some blame political messaging.</p><p>"Voters take cues on their policy preferences and overall positions," Dr. Riley Dunlap, a professor emeritus at Oklahoma State University, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/02/20/climate/climate-change-polls.html" target="_blank">told</a> The New York Times. "President Trump has, in the past, called climate change a hoax and all that. You get a similar message from many members of Congress on the Republican side. And most importantly, it's the message you get from the conservative media."</p><p>But among Republicans, concern about climate change is not spread equally among demographic groups. For example, a <a href="https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/climate-change-poll-americans" target="_blank">recent poll</a> conducted by CBS News found that about 50 percent of Republicans under age 45 said climate change is a "crisis/serious problem," compared to 26 percent of those older than 45.</p>
2. Environmental protections<p>Environmentalism had bipartisan support when it emerged as a prominent political issue in the 1970s. Take, for example, this excerpt from a State of the Union address:<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Shall we make peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our land, to our air, and to our water? It has become a common cause of all people of this country, clean air, open spaces. These should once again be the birthright of every American."</p><p>That's a quote from former President Richard Nixon. But today, concern about the environment seems to be much more prominent among Democrats. Pew Research Center <a href="https://www.people-press.org/2020/02/13/as-economic-concerns-recede-environmental-protection-rises-on-the-publics-policy-agenda/" target="_blank">writes</a>:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Overall, 85% of Democrats say protecting the environment should be a top priority for the president and Congress, up 11 percentage points from the share who said this in 2019. Fewer than half as many Republicans (39%) rate environmental protection as a major priority; still, this is up 8 points since last year and is the largest share of Republicans saying this in Pew Research Center surveys over the past decade."</p><p>A 2019 Gallup poll found that Republicans' concern over the quality of the environment and their desire for government step in to protect dropped both during the Bush and Trump administrations. Gallup <a href="https://news.gallup.com/opinion/gallup/248294/partisan-polarization-environment-grows-trump.aspx" target="_blank">said</a> the trends reveal three key points:</p><ul><li>First, as we entered the new millennium, there was already substantial partisan polarization on both measures of environmental concern, with Democrats expressing substantially higher levels of worry about environmental quality and belief that not enough was being done to protect it.</li><li>Second, these gaps persisted with only modest variation until the Trump era.</li><li>Third, for both items, the partisan gap has become enormous under the Trump administration.</li></ul>
3. Guns<p>The recent Pew survey shows that Democrats are more likely to say that gun control should be a top priority, by about 40 percentage points (66% vs. 25%). Gun control wasn't the most partisan issue, but it was the most divisive issue between the genders: women were 20 percent more likely than men to say it should be a top priority.</p>
Pew Research Center<p>A separate Pew <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/10/16/share-of-americans-who-favor-stricter-gun-laws-has-increased-since-2017/" target="_blank">survey</a> conducted in September 2019 found that support for gun control has gained modest support since 2017. The results showed that 71 percent of Americans favor banning high-capacity magazines, compared to 65 percent two years ago.</p>
4. Military<p>Republicans are more likely than Democrats to want to strengthen the military (66 percent versus 30 percent). What's more, no other issue revealed a bigger chasm between the generations: Older Americans (65+) are 30 percent more likely than younger generations (19 to 29) to support bolstering the armed forces. Perhaps unsurprisingly, older Americans are also much more likely to support strengthening Social Security, while protecting the environment is a more important issue among young Americans.</p>
Pew Research Center
5. Immigration<p>More than <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/17/key-findings-about-u-s-immigrants/" target="_blank">1 million immigrants</a> enter the U.S each year, mainly from India, Mexico, Cuba, and China. According to a 2019 Pew survey, about two-thirds of Americans have positive views on immigrants, saying they <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/31/majority-of-americans-continue-to-say-immigrants-strengthen-the-u-s/" target="_blank">strengthen the country</a> "because of their hard work and talents." But in the recent Pew survey, Republicans were far more likely than Democrats to say dealing with immigration should be a top priority (73 percent compared to 40 percent). Men are also more likely than women to prioritize immigration (59 percent to 51 percent).</p>
6. Education<p>Overall, Americans ranked improving education in the top three most policy issues, with 67 percent support, according to the recent Pew survey. But only about half of Republicans said education is a top priority, compared to 80 percent of Democrats. Younger Americans are especially concerned about education, showing 74 percent support. It's worth noting that this partisan gap has widened by <a href="https://www.people-press.org/2019/01/24/publics-2019-priorities-economy-health-care-education-and-security-all-near-top-of-list/" target="_blank">10 percentage points</a> in just a year, according to Pew data.</p>
7. Health care costs<p>The U.S. spends more than $<a href="https://time.com/5785945/health-care-problems-america/" target="_blank">10,000 per person</a> on health care each year, making it the most expensive system in the world. Although a majority of Americans want to reduce the cost of health care, Democrats prioritize this issue higher than Republicans (80 percent to 52 percent support). Women also rank this issue higher than men, by 10 percentage points. Generationally, there wasn't a huge gap in support for reducing health care costs, though the oldest generation did express the highest support (73 percent).<br></p>
Unraveling the psychology behind gun ownership may offer fresh insight into the gun control debate.
The gun debate, like many in the US, seems split straight down the liberal-conservative divide. In reality, there’s a lot of gray area in terms of opinions out there, far more perhaps than the media lets on. And yet, even after a rash of horrific mass shootings, the country seems deadlocked on the issue of gun control, once again.
When it comes to climate change, gun control, and vaccinations, facts don’t change people’s minds—but there is one technique that might.
If you want someone to see an issue rationally, you just show them the facts, right? No one can refute a fact. Well, brain imaging and psychological studies are showing that, society wide, we may be on the wrong path by holding evidence up as an Ace card. Neuroscientist Tali Sharot and her colleagues have proven that reading the same set of facts polarizes groups of people even further, because of our in-built confirmation biases—something we all fall prey to, equally. In fact, Sharot cites research from Yale University that disproves the idea that the social divisions we are experiencing right now—over climate change, gun control, or vaccines—are somehow the result of an intelligence gap: smart people are just as illogical, and what's more, they are even more skilled at skewing data to align with their beliefs. So if facts aren't the way forward, what is? There is one thing that may help us swap the moral high ground for actual progress: finding common motives. Here, Sharot explains why identifying a shared goal is better than winning a fight. Tali Sharot's newest book is out now: The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals about Our Power to Change Others.
Their thoughts were more complex than either side of the gun control / gun rights issue acknowledges.
America’s “founding fathers” led an armed population against the British monarchy and won. It is understandable that they saw the way the country was founded as an example of how it should be organized. They were fighters who wanted the ability to keep fighting to preserve their independence. And thus we got bearing arms as a cornerstone American right.