An analysis of FBI-maintained data on the volume of background checks conducted when stores sell firearms reveals that Americans are buying more guns than at any time since the agency began keeping track of the numbers.
Of particular interest is the dramatic spike in sales since late last year.
Through 2012, the number of background checks run on retail gun customers already was on pace to be higher than in previous years. But in the weeks following the Newtown, Conn., mass murder (as well as the liberal-backed crescendo in anti-gun policy), people bought a lot of guns.
The FBI began keeping track of background check numbers after implementing the point-of-sale National Instant Criminal Background Check System in 1998. In the 14 years since, nine of the 10 days of greatest background check volume occurred on, or in the time following, Dec. 14, the date of the Newtown killings.
In addition, the 10 heaviest-volume weeks have all happened since Newtown:
The highest week of all time was the one immediately following the tragedy; the week of the tragedy itself ranks fifth, even though the massacre occurred on Friday…The Sandy Hook massacre lit a fuse — and even at the site of the tragedy itself sales have spiked. Gun shops in Newtown are seeing sales at a rate at least double normal.
The analysis cautions that the numbers can only reveal so much information. For example, many gun buyers may be purchasing more than one weapon after passing their background checks. Also, there’s no way to be sure that all purchases requiring a background check, under Federal law, are ever verified.
And, because non-retail firearms transactions don’t require Federal background checks, there isn’t any way — to the relief of privacy fans everywhere — to measure the frequency with which privately exchanged guns are bought and sold. The liberal rhetoric over restricting private gun sales frequently tosses around the claim that 40 percent of guns bought and sold don’t undergo any kind of check, but that’s been debunked.