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.
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.
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.