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So Many People Are Buying Guns in Pennsylvania They Crashed the Online Background Check System

So Many People Are Buying Guns in Pennsylvania They Crashed the Online Background Check System

As Americans continue to grapple with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Pennsylvania State Police’s online firearms background check system crashed twice on Tuesday when requests for verification more than tripled the demand from the same day a year earlier.

The outages occurred for a three-and-a-half-hour period in the morning, between 8 and 11:30 a.m., and another three-and-a-half-hour period in the afternoon-evening, from 5 to 8:40 p.m, The Express Times reported.

Despite the outages, the Pennsylvania Instant Check System, or PICS, processed 4,342 requests for firearms purchases, transfers, evidence returns, and license to carry applications during the day, state police said in a statement.

That was more than a three-fold increase of the 1,359 requests on the same Tuesday in 2019.

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“Rumors circulating on social media that PICS has been shut down as part of the commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic are false,” said Maj. Gary Dance, the director of the state police Bureau of Records and Identification, in the release. “PICS is, and will remain, operational.”

A server issue caused the morning crash, the statement read, while a backlog of requests caused the afternoon-evening shutdown.

The state police agency said it was working with a vendor to increase its ability to avoid future backlogs and would “adjust staffing as needed to meet demand.”

PICS is used by county sheriffs, large cities and licensed firearms dealers to determine whether someone is  legally eligible to acquire a license to carry firearm or obtain a firearm through a purchase or transfer.

Pennsylvania processed more than 1 million requests through its system in 2018.


The Pennsylvania system crash is not the only evidence that the general public has increased its appetite for weapons and ammunition in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that has greatly impacted American public life.

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Californians waited in long lines at gun shops for the opportunity to buy firearms and ammunition, NPR reported on Friday.

According to NPR, a gun shop owner in Tulsa, Oklahoma said he was witnessing “a lot of panic buying.”

“Some people come in and they just want an AR-15,” said David Stone of Dong’s Guns, Ammo and Reloading. “They don’t care what the brand is. They just want the cheapest one.”

Stone says gun sales are up about 20 percent, but ammunition sales have really skyrocketed between 400 to 500 percent.

Online retailer Ammo.com reported a sales spike of 68 percent shortly after Italy recorded a major outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, last month.

Cover image: Customers waiting in line at a gun store. (Twitter)

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