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Surge in calls disrupts PA background check system as gun sales spike due to coronavirus pandemic concerns
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Surge in calls disrupts PA background check system as gun sales spike due to coronavirus pandemic concerns

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Coronavirus pandemic fears appear to be fueling a surge in gun sales, as the Pennsylvania State Police said Wednesday that call volume to the state’s instant background check system had more than tripled.

The Pennsylvania Instant Check System, which all licensed firearms dealers in the state are required to use, went offline twice on Tuesday. A morning outage was due to a server issue, the PSP said, and an evening outage was due to a backlog of requests.

“Despite the downtime, PICS completed 4,342 transactions on March 17, compared to 1,359 transactions on the corresponding Tuesday in March 2019,” the PSP wrote in a statement on Wednesday.

Transactions include background checks for purchases as well as transfers, evidence returns, and license-to-carry applications.

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The PSP is “working with its vendor to increase processing power to avoid future backlogs and will adjust staffing as needed to meet demand,” the agency said, adding that online rumors that the state was shutting PICS down due to the COVID-19 pandemic were false.

Reports from around the nation indicate gun shops are seeing record sales volumes. Online ammunition retailer Ammo.com released data showing that ammunition sales have increased 276 percent in the last three weeks relative to the three weeks before that.

Pennsylvania’s ammo sales spiked even further, according to Ammo.com, with sales to PA from Feb. 23 to March 15 increasing 375 percent versus sales from Feb. 1 to Feb. 22.

Email Zack at zhoopes@cumberlink.com.

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