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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  • Bob Triggs

    One aspect of these spikes in sales and permit applications may be due to the fact that subsequent to these shooting the resulting media blitz against guns creates a concern among citizens that they may not be able to protect themselves if there is a gun ban. The criminals won’t mind either way, gun control laws do not stop criminals.

  • Anonymous

    People want to buy guns “before it’s too late”. As usual it is never made much harder on those who have owned them prior but those who get them after, prices also skyrocket. I could totally agree and see why people would something of a potentially important use being being taken away from future access making people rush out and get it. Not to mention nobody wants to be in the situation of a raging gunman while unarmed after seeing this now more than ever.

    The mainstream media covers this stuff obsessively and then politicians make a brash or rash case for pushing their agenda out of this event.

    What is really sad is not once has mainstream media brought drugs and psychiatric drugs onto this debate as well as the politicians. Prescription drugs may be if not the main, only reason why these shootings have occurred, I am not being far fetched in this claim either. Mind-altering drugs do just that, and when side-effects agitation, insomnia, diluted sense of emotion, tendencies toward suicide and thoughts of harming ones’ self. Even normal people go crazy off these drugs, so I doubt it takes much for somebody already unstable.

  • Joe

    The NRA and the right wing media whip the gun lovers into a frenzy of fear and paranoia, so they buy guns and ammo by the truck loads. Other countries, not as gun-crazed, not ruled by the NRA, their shills, their lobbyists, do positive things after a gun massacre, such as banning or restricting certain weapons. Machine guns and fully automatic weapons are heavily restricted and regulated, banned in some states and we have had no massacres by machine gun in many decades.

  • Joe

    No one is calling for a ban on all guns, just certain guns. Even the conservative, Bush appointed, gun owning judge (Larry Alan Burns) who sentenced Jared Loughner has changed his mind and is for banning semi-automatic guns and high capacity magazines.
    He said: “Ban the manufacture, importation, sale, transfer and possession of both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” Burns wrote. “Don’t let people who already have them keep them. Don’t let ones that have already been manufactured stay on the market. I don’t care whether it’s called gun control or a gun ban. I’m for it.” and
    “There is just no reason civilians need to own assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Gun enthusiasts can still have their venison chili, shoot for sport and competition, and make a home invader flee for his life without pretending they are a part of the SEAL team that took out Osama bin Laden.”

  • Dan

    People kill – Guns make it easy. The more guns, the more deaths, and it seems mass murder is good for business.

  • Greg Wetzel

    There are not simple answers to finding ways to stopping shooting in the US. However, there are answers to effective ways to greatly reduce the shootings. However, in the US there is a huge lobby for guns and we have a violent culture, thus when one makes a simple request of more gun regulations one is often told that this will not make a difference. Without regulations more people will be needless killed by crazy shooters.

  • Roman Wills

    Sure killing is made easier with gun , but…. did you know that people use firearms for self defense many many more times than they are used illegally. That is from the Bureau of Justice stats. I don’t have time for the citation but if you are serious about learning please look it up.

  • Roman Wills

    So they ARE calling for a ban on ALL guns of certain kind then.