After Newtown, Gun Background Checks Skyrocket

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Joanna Baginska, a 4th grade teacher, aims a 40 cal. Sig Sauer during concealed-weapons training for the teachers. Behind her, Clark Aposhian, president of the Utah Shooting Sport Council, demonstrates with a plastic gun. The Utah Shooting Sports Council offered six hours of training in handling concealed weapons on Dec. 27, 2012, in West Valley City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

In order to buy guns, in December more than 2.7 million Americans applied for the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check. That beat the previous record — set only a month earlier, in November — when 2 million Americans applied.

In total, 19.5 million people filed for gun background checks in 2012. That, too, was a record — an increase of 3 million from the previous year. The chart below shows statistics for the last four years paired with the dates of some of the more devastating mass shootings that happened during the same period.

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After the Newtown massacre, the number of people applying for background checks skyrocketed. This chart shows the number of background checks requested over the last four years and the dates of some of the most devastating mass shootings. (Chart by from FBI data)

Due in part to holiday gift sales, November and December typically see the highest number of background checks, as shown in the chart below. But December 2012 showed a substantial increase — nearly 50 percent — over December 2011.

Jan. 1999 - Dec. 2012

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The number of FBI background checks per month for would-be gun owners typically increases during the holiday season, but December 2012 showed an unprecedented increase. (Chart by from FBI data)

An FBI spokesperson told Reuters that the process for applying for a background check hadn’t changed, and the substantial increase in applications for background checks likely reflects increased demand.

In addition to Newtown, 2012 saw seven mass killings — defined by the FBI as four murders or more — including the deaths in Aurora, CO, and Oak Creek, WI, where a gunman opened fire at a Sikh temple. Newtown, Oak Creek and Aurora were the latest of many mass shootings in recent years. In the wake of the Newtown massacre, which left 20 elementary school students and 8 others — including the gunman and his mother — dead, the National Rifle Association and like-minded groups called for programs to arm teachers and principals.

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