by Joseph P. Tartaro
The number of FBI background checks required for Americans buying guns set a record in December, as the Connecticut school massacre stirred interest in self-defense and prompted renewed talk of limits on firearms, according to FBI data reported by Reuters news service.
The FBI said it recorded 2.8 million background checks during the month, surpassing the mark set in November of 2 million checks. The number was up 49% over December 2011, when the FBI performed a then-record 1.9 million checks.
Consumer demand for guns appears to have accounted for the uptick in activity. There were no changes in FBI background check procedures that would have affected the December numbers, FBI spokesman Stephen Fischer said.
However, December is typically the busiest month of the year for checks, due in part to Christmas gift sales, Reuters noted.
The figures do not represent the number of firearms sold, a statistic the government does not track. They also do not reflect activity between private parties, such as family members or collectors, because federal law requires background checks only for sales from commercial vendors with a federal license.
Someone who passes a background check is eligible to buy multiple firearms.
FBI checks for all of 2012 totaled 19.6 million, an annual record and an increase of 19 percent over 2011, Reuters reported.
But reports reaching TGM from many sources indicate that the firearms market in general is in a hyper state. Various dealers have reported that they are sold of out of AR-style rifles and are having hard time finding additional models. They also report shortages of most ammunition but especially of .223 Rem/5.56mm NATO.
But traditional gun shops are not the only avenues of firearms trade which are breaking records. Gun shows across the country are reporting record attendance and business. Much of that gun show trade may already be reflected in the NICS records that the FBI and Reuters reported since all transactions involving a federal firearms licensing, including at gun shows and flea markets, require background checks either at the federal or state level. In addition, some states also require transactions between private sellers/buyers be conducted with a NICS check.
The Internet gun business also seems be booming, and once again, sales across state lines require that checks be conducted by the FFL in the state where the gun is to be delivered. In spite of claims by some anti-gunners, including Mayors Against Illegal Guns, that Internet sales of firearms feed an illegal market, sales across state lines require that the buyers fill out a Form 4473 and pass a NICS check, before the firearm can be delivered.
There are a lot of reasons why people may want to buy a firearm immediately after a high profile crime, probably most influential being the general media’s daily focus on gun stories and especially reports that new controls will be imposed. The media’s fixation with the possible passage of extremely restrictive new gun laws is driven by their palpable desire to write even more gun control stories.
During the sudden uptick in firearms transactions we have heard reports of dealers having to wait as long as two hours in gaining access to NICS operators.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the FBI was processing “transactions following normal established protocols.” The national debate on guns has grown louder since December 14 when Adam Lanza forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, and killed 20 children and six adults before committing suicide in one of the deadliest school shootings in US history, investigators said. Lanza also killed his mother, the registered owner of the guns used in the killings, before going to the school.
President Obama immediately appointed a study commission from among his cabinet with Vice President Joe Biden, who had a history of supporting gun control measures throughout his Senate career. That commission issues statements to the press, usually proposing action before the end of January, and talking up control legislation and executive action that goes well beyond proposing bans on just some guns, and high capacity magazines. Each time these statements get public attention, they seem to rekindle the public interest in getting guns while they can.