What FFLs Need to Know During the Coronavirus Gun Buying Surge

US virus coronavirus gun sales

David Liu, right, owner of a gun store, takes an order from a customer in Arcadia, Calif., Sunday, March 15, 2020. Coronavirus concerns have led to consumer panic buying of grocery staples and now gun stores are seeing a run on weapons and ammunition as panic intensifies. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

By Joe Bartozzi

As our nation continues to navigate its response to the COVID-19, we recognize the firearm industry, like many others, is being impacted. NSSF is aware of delays within the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) System. FFLs need to know that the FBI is on the job and working diligently to address the dramatic response and increase in background checks experienced over the past few days.

As we noted here on Monday, March 16, 2020, the NICS staff experienced more than a 300% increase compared to this same time period in 2019. States that process their own NICS checks are reporting similar spikes. Colorado’s Bureau of Investigation, for example, announced that checks last week were double the same week last year, and the increased volume has created a backlog of about 5,000 checks awaiting processing. Wait times have increased from between five and eight minutes to two days.

As we’ve seen in the past with other national events, our citizens often seek to exercise their Second Amendment rights during times of uncertainty. This freedom is important to protect, as states and localities are considering measures that seek to shut non-essential businesses.

There is nothing more essential than our Constitutional right to protect ourselves, our families and our property.

Delay Implications

coronavirus gun sales store

People wait in a line at a gun at store amid merchandise displays, in Arcadia, Calif., Sunday, March 15, 2020. AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

According to NICS, there are delays in the system due to an astronomical volume of transactions over the last several days. While much of the NICS System is automated and yields an immediate “proceed” or “deny” determination, transactions that result in a delayed status require the work of NICS examiners to investigate whether the transaction should be approved.

With daily volumes roughly double that of last year, the NICS team is unable to begin investigations on all delays within three business days, creating a backlog in the delayed checks.

Some states’ offices and agencies are considering options to protect the health and safety of their employees, which may include a reduction in staff or a temporary closure. For FFLs in one of these areas that receive a delayed response from the NICS, please note the Brady transfer date provided to you by the FBI could be extended beyond the normal three business days.

The three-business-day timeframe does not begin until relevant state offices are open for business. Additionally, because of the dramatic increase in volume, it is important to recognize that FBI staff may not be able to begin their research on delayed transactions as they normally would. It’s up to the FFL’s discretion, but they may want to consider waiting on a definitive response from the NICS before opting to proceed with a sale on any delayed transaction.

Patience and Prudence

Virus Outbreak gun sales coronavirus

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

These are exceptional and uncertain times, and FFLs may wish to consider implementing temporary changes in order to safeguard their businesses and communities. However, please note that when state offices are closed, it does not constitute a “business day” for purposes of calculating the “three business days” period before an FFL may transfer a firearm to a non-licensee as mandated by the Brady Act.

The NICS Section is working overtime to get through the backlog, and we appreciate their hard work and open communication. NSSF will continue to communicate with NICS and our members to ensure operations move forward as smoothly as possible during this period.


Joe Bartozzi is the President and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation


  1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

    “There is nothing more essential than our Constitutional right to protect ourselves, our families and our property.”

    If such a concern for our lawful rights, then why does NICS even exist?

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      keep those guns locked-up…and out of sight…. when you close for the night?

  2. avatar American Patriot says:

    So FFL’s are not aware of their business requirements, but a blog writer is?

    1. avatar Jerry LeDoux, LeDoux Enterprises LLC says:

      We know the requirements. If there is a change ATF or state government will put out a message to all FFLs!

      I think he is trying to emphasize that due to the increased volume, delays may be longer than usual.

    2. avatar kev says:

      “Joe Bartozzi is the President and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. ”

      Its written at the bottom of the article who the writer was

    1. avatar D says:

      Beware. I have found that 80% of the buyers and sellers on armslist are scammers

      1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

        I’ve done some business there. I haven’t found 80%, until this week. There are a lot of pay pal, cash app and venmo(spelling?) seekers. Definitely a no go in my book. If they can’t meet face to face and complete a legal transaction with CASH then I will not buy/sell.

      2. avatar ron says:

        I havent had any problems – cause I only do FTF– transactions

    2. avatar Stokeslawyer says:

      A phantom is a big gun for such a small caliber, recoil is probably .nothing

    3. avatar ron says:

      That is a nice one — I prefer the cz p10c– if you know of anyone . have them show it on armslist .
      and looking for broken or pieces and parts of handguns is a hobby of mine, that is fun to do. i search every day for them.

  3. avatar No one of Consequence says:

    It’d be nice if everything in NFA jail got a holiday…

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      dream on…good time to have one, though….

  4. avatar Country Boy says:

    “FFLs need to know that the FBI is on the job and working diligently to address the dramatic response and increase in background checks experienced over the past few days.”
    NICS ‘s three to four hours “we’re behind” wait time or no BC available at all…….
    are oxymorons.

    Once again, our tax dollars at work….or not.

  5. avatar GS650G says:

    My FFL tells me he waited on hold for 45 min..

    He’s waiving off business for a while. I buy a gun every other month so I’ll wait until April for my next toy.

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