Gun sellers licensed by the federal government called in more than 1.7 million background checks in August, shattering records for the third month in a row amid renewed calls for gun control.
Statistics released by the FBI suggest that this summer has sparked an interest among prospective gun buyers that hasn’t been seen since the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was established in 1998.
The FBI doesn’t keep a tally of total gun sales, but instead monitors the number of background checks made by federal firearms licensees through the NICS across much of the U.S. In June, July and August, background checks broke monthly records going back nearly 20 years, according to the latest figures.
Background checks were done on 1.53 million prospective gun buyers in June, up from 1.38 million a year earlier. July statistics jumped from 1.4 million in 2014 to 1.6 million this year, and retailers called in roughly 200,000 more checks this past August than the year before.
Compared with statistics from 15 years earlier, the number of monthly background checks made this summer surpasses 2000’s figures by approximately one million a month.
Larry Keane, a general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry trade group, told USA Today that talk of gun control often sparks surges in firearms sales.
Indeed, the latest spike appears to correlate with discussions that rekindled in recent months in the wake of high-profile shooting incidents at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and during a live-TV segment in Roanoke, Virginia, that subsequently spawned new efforts by anti-gun lawmakers.
“Whenever there is a call for gun control, sales increase,” Mr. Keane told the newspaper. “Unfortunately, this is a pattern that repeats itself.”
“The concern that anti-gun politicians are seeking to infringe and restrict the right to keep and bear arms is very real and well-founded,” he said.
Doug Hunter, the owner of Fort Liberty Firearms in Indiana, told local network WTHR that those concerns are evident in his shop as well.
“There’s a lot of people that believe it’s kind of a snowball effect that don’t necessarily believe in guns. They don’t necessarily believe in gun control, but they don’t want to see any individual’s rights taken away for fear one day it will be theirs,” he said this week.
Attempts to pass new legislation with regards to gun control continue though, as Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia Democrat, proposed the Responsible Transfer of Firearms Act on Tuesday. If passed, Mr. Kaine said, the bill would hold gun sellers responsible for failing to adhere to proper background check procedures.
“It would hold a seller or transferor of firearms criminally liable should they fail to demonstrate they took reasonable steps to prevent a weapon from falling into prohibited hands,” Mr. Kaine said in a statement. “Why should someone be able to casually place an illegal firearm in the hands of a felon?”
“As recent tragedies in Virginia and across the country have shown, the gun laws in our country have done little to stem senseless gun violence,” he said. “These numbing incidents in urban, rural and suburban communities are made worse by the lack of accountability in those instances where the tragedy might have been prevented.”