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FBI Data Reveals Americans Are Buying More Guns Than Ever Before Following Sandy Hook


"Nine of the ten days with the most daily requested FBI background checks in history have occurred since Newtown."

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

Pinning down the numbers and statistics surrounding gun purchases is a monumentally-difficult task. While the General Social Survey claims that gun ownership has declined, Gallup has come to starkly different findings, as we've noted. But sales and ownership are two very different indicators, as we'll explore.

Regardless of overall trends that span the past few decades, FBI numbers show that, over the past three months, Americans have potentially been purchasing more guns than ever.

Now, the word "ever" should be qualified, as the FBI has only been tracking background checks since 1998, thus the numbers before that time are not as available and uniform. However, the recent spike very well may be the biggest in U.S. history.

Here's how The Atlantic Wire's Philip Bump explains the current dynamic:

Since the school shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, America has gone on an unprecedented gun-buying binge, the numbers of which are staggering. Nine of the ten days with the most daily requested FBI background checks in history have occurred since Newtown — including the day of the tragedy itself. And the home of the tragedy has seen gun permits more than double.

Background checks are one of the best ways to gauge gun sales, since federal law mandates gun stores conduct one for each purchase. It's more unclear than ever how many gun purchases get a check, but the number of background checks is far higher now than in previous years. 2011 and 2012 were both significantly above the 1998 - 2010 monthly average; 2013 was higher still.

Bump then shows how this translates into line-graph form. The result? A shocking graphic that showcases the increases that have been observed of late:

Photo Credit: The Atlantic

As Bump notes, since the FBI started tracking background checks, the number has increased monumentally. To showcase how the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting might have impacted Americans' gun purchases, consider this: The tragedy unfolded on Dec. 14, 2012. Eight of the 10 days with the most background check requests since tracking began in 1998 unfolded on or following the day of the shooting.

The other two dates preceded the event, but came at the end of November, just weeks before it unfolded.

And it doesn't end there. Bump goes on to note that one can also analyze weeks to look at cumulative background check patterns. When this investigation is conducted, the 10 weeks with the highest number of checks have all occurred since the Sandy Hook massacre.

Here's how these time intervals are mapped out in The Atlantic article (again, these are the weeks with the highest background check requests since the FBI began tracking in 1998):

  1. 12/17/2012 – 12/23/2012, 953,613 checks
  2. 01/14/2013 – 01/20/2013, 641,501 checks
  3. 02/11/2013 – 02/17/2013, 618,361 checks
  4. 01/07/2013 – 01/13/2013, 603,882 checks
  5. 12/10/2012 – 12/16/2012, 602,003 checks
  6. 02/04/2013 – 02/10/2013, 592,542 checks
  7. 02/25/2013 – 03/03/2013, 565,699 checks
  8. 02/18/2013 – 02/24/2013, 543,259 checks
  9. 01/21/2013 – 01/27/2013, 541,822 checks
  10. 12/03/2012 – 12/09/2012, 527,095 checks

Bump concludes his article by noting that "America is buying guns at a rate that we've never seen before." What's perhaps most interesting here, though, is who, exactly, is buying. While it may be true that sales are through the roof, some experts have contended that those buying are not new gun owners. If this is true, then, despite a rise in guns, the rate of ownership wouldn't be impacted profoundly.

As TheBlaze previously reported, Daniel Webster, director of John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, explained this dynamic in a recent New York Times article.

"There are all these claims that gun ownership is going through the roof," Webster said "But I suspect the increase in gun sales has been limited mostly to current gun owners. The most reputable surveys show a decline over time in the share of households with guns."

While the numbers remain difficult to pin down, the nation's gun control discussion has seemingly had an unintended consequence -- a spark that has ignited an increased interest in buying. Who, exactly, is heading out to the stores to purchase, though, remains a mystery.

(H/T: Atlantic Wire)


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