The number of background checks for firearms that the FBI has done thus far this year is at a record pace, signaling that gun sales are on the rise.
Anyone hoping to buy a gun through a federally licensed gun-seller must go through a background check by the bureau's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Not all checks lead to purchases, but most do, said a report from the Dayton Daily News.
According to the FBI website, through July the NICS had conducted 9,154,144 background checks. That would put it on pace to do nearly 15.7 million checks for 2011, shattering the record of 14.4 million set just last year. The NICS started doing background checks in 1998.
The number of background checks has risen steadily in recent years, from 8.9 million in 2005 to the current level.
Andrew Molchan, director of the Professional Gun Retailers Association, said the upturn in gun sales over the past six years can be attributed to the Supreme Court overturning gun bans in major cities. He also said financial and political turmoil play a part.
“Since late 2007, there has been growing apprehension that’s still there,” he said. “If it’s there, firearm sales go up.”
There is also the continuing fear that President Obama is really an anti-gun activist in disguise and is ready to crack down on firearms.
“If you look at the statistics on background checks, most of the increase started right around the 2008 election,” said an Ohio gun shop owner who requested anonymity. “It’s due to the political environment and what the government might try to do to take their guns away.”
Indeed, some 350,000 more background checks were done in November 2008 (when Obama won the election) than in the month before, the biggest one-month jump ever.
While sales might be increasing, overall gun ownership appears to be down. The percentage of U.S. households that own a gun was 32.3% in 2010, down from 34.3% in 2000 and 45.8% in 1990, according to the gun-control group the Violence Policy Center.