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PA gun background checks set record number for busy 2020 fourth quarter


Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania State Police announced that the fourth quarter of 2020 was the busiest in the history of the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS), breaking the previous record that was set in the third quarter of 2020. The department also released the number of firearms purchase denials, subsequent investigations, and arrests resulting from such investigations for the period of October 1 through December 31, 2020.

Established in 1998, PICS is 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. In the fourth quarter of 2020, PICS completed 420,581 background checks. The highest total previously was 406,151, set in the third quarter of 2020.

“Our department is proud of PICS and the men and women behind the system who worked hard to meet record-setting demand throughout 2020,” said Captain Mark Shaver, assistant director of the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Records and Identification. “For the year, we saw a 47 percent increase in PICS requests from 2019, and the team stepped up to answer the call during a global pandemic.”

Statistics for the fourth quarter of 2019 are included for comparison.

Fourth Quarter PICS Statistics20192020
Total number of PICS checks conducted272,901420,581
     Number of persons denied4,1067,458
Total number of denials referred to law enforcement agencies1,1551,317
     Referred to Pennsylvania State Police357352
     Referred to Local Law Enforcement791932
     Referred to ATF733
Number of individuals arrested for a warrant at point of purchase4252


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.

In Pennsylvania, 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 presents false identification that is likely to deceive a firearm seller, licensed dealer, or licensed manufacturer. During the PICS process, individuals may also be identified as having an active warrant for their arrest.

Additional Information

First Quarter 2020 PICS Statistics
Second Quarter 2020 PICS Statistics
Third Quarter 2020 PICS Statistics
Pennsylvania Instant Check System Annual Reports