A record number of firearms background checks were conducted by the FBI in 2015 — equating roughly to 44 checks every minute.
The FBI reported Monday that the agency conducted a total of 23,141,970 checks last year, eclipsing the previous record of nearly 21.1 million checks set in 2013. News of the record-setting year comes as President Obama is expected to announce executive orders expanding background check requirements.
The background checks are conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for gun purchases from federal firearms licensees and for permits to carry guns. While the checks serve as an indicator of gun sale trends in the U.S., each check does not always equate to a sale.
A review of the FBI data by the National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates that 14,244,240 of the checks made this year, or about 62 percent, were for firearm purchases, while the remainder were made in connection with concealed carry permits. The firearms trade association cautions that its estimate still does not precisely correlate with the actual number of firearms sold, but that the data offer a better perspective on the gun market. According to the FBI data, the number of background checks run daily on perspective gun buyers peaked last year on Black Friday, when 185,345 checks were conducted.
But background checks continued to surge following the major shopping day and throughout the end of the year. According to the FBI data, December saw 3.3 million checks conducted — setting another record as the month the FBI processed the most background checks for potential gun owners since the agency began conducting them in 1998 as part of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.
The previous monthly record for firearm background checks was December 2012, when 20 children and six adults were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. November and December typically have been high-volume months for background checks. But in the wake of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, gun purchases spiked as many buyers expressed worry that gun control measures under consideration would make it far more difficult to buy firearms.
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Erich Pratt of the gun rights association Gun Owners of America said Mr. Obama’s talk of utilizing executive action to enact gun control restrictions coupled with recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, have spurred on gun buyers.”Any time you have the president saying ‘more restrictions are coming,’ people run to gun stores,” Mr. Pratt said. “We’ve also seen more people wanting to carry firearms, and that’s directly because of the [Islamic State] threat.”
Mr. Obama met Monday with Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and FBI Director James B. Comey to discuss new gun regulations, which he has yet to detail in full. But the president said the imminent new regulations would “potentially save lives” without infringing on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.
Since 1998 the FBI has conducted more than 225 million background checks on potential firearms purchasers through the system, leading to close to 1.3 million denials, most often for issues relating to a person’s criminal history.
• Andrea Noble can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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