Colorado gun dealers can sell firearms without completed background checks due to state’s massive backlog

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — The COVID-19 pandemic is causing gun sales to soar in Colorado, creating a major backlog on Colorado Bureau of Investigation background checks.

That backlog is legally allowing gun dealers to sell firearms to people who should not have them. Under federal law, the CBI has three business days to approve or deny a gun sale before a seller can exercise discretion and sell a firearm. Usually, the CBI has no problem meeting that deadline, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made the process more difficult. 

The bureau has been working nonstop to sort through a backlog of roughly 9,000 background check requests from gun dealers across the state. What usually takes eight minutes to turn around is currently taking four business days, according to CBI spokesperson Susan Medina.

Gun shop owners say people are flocking to gun stores amid the pandemic. Along with the demand, CBI officials say social distancing is changing the bureau’s workflow.

“Obviously we’re in a different time,” Medina said. “This isn’t a situation where we can’t throw staff members in a room and they can knock this down.”

The delay is allowing dealers to sell guns to people who may be considered unfit to own a gun. The bureau is encouraging dealers to hold weapons until checks are compete.

At least one shop has already exercised the federal loophole and sold a gun to a person who should not have one, according to CBI. Agents are now working to recover that weapon, Medina said.

Overall, CBI says dealers are cooperating.

FOX31 Denver asked Gov. Jared Polis’ office, on Tuesday afternoon, if the backlog will prompt the governor to close gun shops during the pandemic. A spokesperson sent the following response Thursday afternoon:

“We know of only one instance in which a firearm was released to a prohibited purchaser, and that firearm has already been voluntarily recovered. We are studying ways to continue to support CBI. Thanks to the efforts of the CBI, combined with additional supportive measures that are being considered, good progress is being made on reducing the queue back under the 3-business-day federal guideline.”

The CBI says in an effort to accommodate the increase in demand, it has expanded the hours of its InstaCheck system and is cross-training staff members to assist in the background check process.

Some officials running for office, including former Gov. John Hickenlooper, have called on Congress to close this regulation.

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