Background checks for firearms continue to surge in Colorado, with the state processing more than three times the number of background check requests compared to this time last year. Background checks are only a proxy for gun sales because there is no registry of total guns sold in the U.S.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation announced that wait times are four days on average for 25,468 background checks ordered in the last week. During this time in 2019, there were only 7,773 background checks. Current wait times are in excess of the federally-mandated three-day limit, after which firearms deals can use their discretion to release weapons to purchasers. The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence reports that “default proceed” sales result in approximately 3,800 individuals gaining access to guns annually for which they should have been prevented.
The CBI said that it has trained additional employees and added additional hours of processing, but that it is trying to protect its workers at the same time from the spread of COVID-19. Last week, gun shops reported increased business due to fears of what might happen amid continued business shutdowns and spread of disease.
Multiple gun shops in Denver refused to talk about their sales, some pointing to how busy their stores were. Juan Lopez, who owns Shooter Ready in Adams County, said that despite the backlog taking seven days, in his experience, he is not releasing firearms to owners after three days.
“We have no idea who’s going to clear or not,” he said.
An employee at Scottie’s Guns in Denver, who did not want to give his name, explained that background check results come back to store owners as approved, denied or “delayed.”
“If it comes back approved or denied, well, you proceed accordingly,” he said. “Delayed means there’s something they’re still investigating....Right now as we speak, there's 12,795 people in Colorado in queue waiting for a background check."
Gunny Salas, who owns Tacticool Arms, LLC in Greeley, said that early on in his career, he did complete a sale once the three-day period had elapsed, but the background check for the customer subsequently came back denied. He said the customer brought back the firearm and was understanding, but Salas has since changed his handling of delays.
“I do not transfer the firearm until we have an approval from CBI,” he said.
For customers waiting on weapons who live in Denver and fall under Mayor Michael Hancock’s shelter-in-place order beginning on Tuesday evening, Lopez said that they have no choice but to come into the store to retrieve their guns. Shipping through the mail is not an option.