The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Technology challenges and a surge in requests resulted in PICS twice going offline on March 17, 2020. An isolated server issue was responsible for the morning outage from 8:00 to 11:30 a.m. The second outage happened between 5:00 and 8:40 p.m., 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. Transactions include background checks for purchases, transfers, evidence returns, and license to carry applications.
The Pennsylvania State Police is working with its vendor to increase processing power to avoid future backlogs and will adjust staffing as needed to meet demand. Rumors circulating on social media that PICS has been shutdown as part of the commonwealth's response to the COVID-19 epidemic are false. PICS is, and will remain, operational.
We regret any inconvenience yesterday's downtime caused to licensed firearm dealers and their customers.
Fortunately, as best I can tell, the coronavirus epidemic hasn't so far led to an increase in crime (and might indeed lead to a decrease), or to a sharp increase in police response times. I very much hope that it won't. But events such as this remind people about how fragile normal civilization can be, and lead some to reasonably conclude that the time to stock up—even for a low-probability outcome—is now rather than later, when shelves are bare, background check systems are down, or gun stores are closed as non-"essential" businesses.