State sets record for firearm background checks

Apr. 7—Pennsylvania's Instant Check System (PICS) numbers continue to climb in Pennsylvania, setting a record for background checks in the first quarter of 2021, according to state police.

Northumberland County Sheriff Bob Wolfe said he doesn't expect it to subside.

State police spokesperson Ryan Tarkowski said the instant checks system set a record for background checks with 427,450. It was the third straight quarter for record-breaking volume, breaking the record of 420,581, set in the last quarter of 2020. In the first quarter of 2020 there were 304,876 checks conducted.

PICS was established in 1998, and used by county sheriffs, chiefs of police of cities of the first class, and licensed firearms dealers in Pennsylvania to determine an individual's legal ability to acquire a license to carry firearms or obtain a firearm through a purchase or transfer.

Tarkowski said the number of people denied so far in 2021 was 6,444 with 52 people arrested for outstanding warrants while attempting to purchase a firearm. During the first quarter of 2020, there were 4,866 denials with 59 people being arrested for outstanding warrants.

According to state law a person commits a felony of the third degree if they make a false oral or written statement on any federal or state agency form or willfully present false identification that is likely to deceive a firearm seller, licensed dealer or licensed manufacturer, Tarkowski said.

"When an individual provides false information on a state and/or federal form, an investigation is initiated, and an investigation referral is sent to the corresponding law enforcement agency," he said. "Individuals may also be identified as having an active warrant for their arrest during the background check process."

Wolfe said the applications at his office are "still going strong. We are limiting the number of people to come in and it is first come first serve. We are doing these every day up till like 4 p.m. We are steady all day."

In 32 years, and with the sheriff's office for 12 years, Wolfe said he has never seen this volume of applications.

"I don't see it slowing down at any time," he said. "We are hearing from people when they come in that they believe their guns will be taken so it appears this continues to bring out people in record numbers."