Colorado gun sales remain at high volume, prompting $1.3 million request to speed up background checks |

Colorado gun sales remain at high volume, prompting $1.3 million request to speed up background checks

At its peak in April, the average state firearm background check took 56 hours to process, up from about five minutes in April 2019

Lucy Haggard / Colorado Sun
Multiple counties in Colorado have officially opposed the red flag gun bill.
File Photo

A surge in demand for firearms during the coronavirus pandemic means Colorado’s background check process currently takes at least 500 times longer than normal – and it’s not slowing down any time soon. 

In an effort to speed the process back up, the Polis administration is asking state lawmakers to approve $1.3 million in emergency spending to hire more staff as soon as October.

The request, announced this week, wouldn’t draw from taxes. Rather, the money would come out of the fees collected when a potential gun buyer requests a background check. The legislature initiated background check fees through legislation passed in March 2013; currently one background check costs $10.50, though the cost has fluctuated between $6 and $15.

Modeling included in the request from Gov. Jared Polis’ budget office shows that from May to July, CBI was consistently and significantly understaffed to handle the volume of background check requests coming in. 

For the week starting on March 10, right as the coronavirus pandemic started to hit the state, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation received 14,604 background check requests, twice as many as in the same period in 2019, when there were 7,257 requests. Potential gun owners are required to undergo a background check for every transaction.

The trend continued in the following months, with both April and June registering a more than 70% increase in requests compared with the year before, at 49,676 and 45,457 respectively. 

But the waiting time has increased exponentially in comparison. The rush has translated to an average wait of about 38 hours since the pandemic began. At its peak in April, the average background check took 56 hours to process, more than 650 times the average of 5 minutes in April 2019. In August, the most recent CBI data available, one background check request took an average of 26 hour, compared to a six-minute average in 2019.

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