The Covid-19 pandemic has fueled an increase in gun sales in many states, including Oregon. Requests to the Oregon State Police Firearm Instant Check System (FICS) rose 93% the week of March 23-29, 2020 over the same week one year ago. From March 1 to 31, 2020, 51,526 FICS requests were recorded by the Oregon State Police. That is more than twice the rate of the January 2017 to February 2020 monthly average FICS request of 23,669.
Oregon has not ended the default proceed rule (better known as the Charleston Loophole) which allows gun sellers to complete a firearm sale after three business days even if a background check has not yet been completed. Ceasefire Oregon contacted Governor Brown to suspend the default proceed rule for the duration of the crisis but she has declined to do so.
We have no way to know how many gun sales have been completed without a background check under the default proceed rule.
- Monthly Average FICS Requests Jan 2017 – Feb 2020: 23,669
- Average FICS Requests in March 2017, March 2018, March 2019: 31,384
- FICS Requests for March 2020: 51,526, an increase of 66% over 2019.
- FICS Requests for March 2019: 31,060
- FICS Requests for April 2020: 38,306, an increase of 52% over 2019.
- FICS Requests for April 2019: 25,269
- FICS Requests for May 2020: 36,096, an increase of 58% over 2019.
- FICS Requests for May 2019: 22,794
- Previous highest month, March 2018: 33,839
Data Source: Oregon Firearm Instant Check System
Gun sales usually increase in March but this rate is unprecedented. New gun owners should understand that bringing a firearm into your home and community increases the chance that a family member will be fatally shot with that firearm or use it for suicide. Research shows that a firearm in the home doubles the risk of homicide and triples the risk of suicide.” (Anglemyer 2014)
A spokesperson for Oregon Governor Kate Brown told The Trace that firearm businesses can continue to operate as long as they can designate an employee to establish and implement social distancing policies and strictly enforce social distancing policies.
According to Portland Police Chief Jami Resch, calls for suicide attempts or threats increased 41% over the same time one year ago and have increased 23% from the period beginning 10 days before a state of emergency in Oregon was declared on March 8.
Chief Resch also announced that domestic violence arrests increased 27% year-over-year between March 12 and March 23 in both 2019 and 2020.
Eighty percent of all firearm-related deaths in Oregon are suicides. The high lethality rate of guns combined with easy access to an unsecured gun is a grave danger at any time, but particularly now when people are struggling financially and lack access to resources.
Ceasefire Oregon Education Foundation urges people to take the following actions to reduce gun violence in their homes and communities:
- Store all firearms securely either on the gun owner’s person (holstered), in a locked gun safe or gun room, or with a trigger lock or cable lock. Keep ammunition stored separately.
- Display the Suicide Prevention Hotline number 800-273-8255 near firearm(s) with pictures of family, friends, and pets.
- Visit Oregon Firearm Safety for information about talking to gun owners about suicide.
- Ask if firearms are kept where your child or grandchild will be staying, playing, or vacationing. Find tips here for ASK: Asking Saves Kids.
- Consider storing your gun at a gun storage facility.
- Become familiar with Oregon’s Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) law. An ERPO can temporarily disarm a loved one who is in crisis. ERPOs may be filed by family members, household members, or law enforcement. More than 90% of Oregon ERPO petitions filed by law enforcement officers are approved by the courts.
- ERPO forms: https://www.courts.oregon.gov/programs/family/domestic-violence/Pages/Extreme-Risk-Protection.aspx
- Familiarize yourself with domestic violence resources in your area. More than 250,000 firearms are stolen every year from legal gun owners who do not properly secure their firearms in their homes and cars. Do not unwittingly arm criminals.
- When safe to do so, attend hands-on training classes for firearm owners.
Visit GVPedia to learn more about the realities and myths of defensive gun use.