The FBI sent out 4170 requests in 2016 to retrieve guns from people who never should have been able to purchase them, an increase of more than 1000 over the year before. USA Today reports that the FBI sent requests to agents from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms to get back guns from people who should have been blocked from purchasing them because they had criminal records, mental health problems, or other disqualifying issues. Though the FBI's background check system looks at millions of gun purchases every year, the law says that if a background check isn’t completed within 72 hours, the sale has to be allowed. If the agency then discovers a problem with the sale, ATF agents are tasked with getting those guns back.
The requests only speak to the number of transactions that should have been prohibited, not the number of guns purchased. It's the largest number of retrieval requests in a decade and likely reflects the record number of background checks performed last year, 27.5 million. The report also comes shortly after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a review of the federal background check system after Devin Kelley shot and killed more than 20 people in a church in rural Texas Nov. 5, despite having a domestic violence court martial conviction that should have precluded him from being able to buy firearms. (Read more guns stories.)