Did you buy a new gun for yourself this past Christmas? If so, you had plenty of company.
Even with a few days left in December, the FBI reported the number of background checks on firearms purchasers had already exceeded the previous 1-month record—set only weeks earlier—of 1,534,414 inquiries by gun dealers to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
Further, nearly a half-million background checks were filed in just the last 6 days before Christmas, and 102,222 background checks were done December 23 and 24, the second-highest number in history, according to the FBI.
The record December came on the heels of record gun sales occurring in November 2011. This year’s traditional day-after-Thanksgiving Black Friday holiday shopping kickoff saw an unprecedented flood of FBI background check requests for prospective gun buyers, smashing the single-day, all-time high, according to bureau records.
November 25 had the most background checks for firearm purchases in a single day (129,166), reflecting a 32-percent increase over the previous NICS high of 97,848 on Black Friday 2008.
Indeed, data released December 5 indicates a total of 1,527,454 NICS checks were conducted in November 2011, an 18.7 percent increase from the figure of 1,286,817 in November 2010.
With another strong year-end finish, December marked the nineteenth straight month NICS figures have increased when compared to the same period the previous year.
Federal law requires FBI background checks on all individuals purchasing firearms from federally licensed retailers. The actual number of individual firearms sold was likely higher than figures indicate, because multiple firearms can be included in a transaction by a single buyer, and the FBI does not track actual individual gun sales. As a result, the number of FBI background checks remains as one of the most accurate indicators of firearms sales in the United States.
Most observers believe the increase in gun sales points to a growing desire of law-abiding Americans to protect themselves and their property, as well as the trend of women to arm themselves and learn personal-defense techniques.
Those trends were mirrored by data contained in an annual survey conducted by the Gallup polling organization reflecting American attitudes toward guns and gun ownership, which found that 47 percent of U.S. households acknowledge having firearms, up from 41 percent just a year ago.
Also, the poll found firearms ownership is rising on all sides of the demographic and political spectrum—among those who identify themselves as democrats as well as republicans. The partisan divide on the issue of firearms ownership is steadily shrinking, as 55 percent of republicans and 40 percent of democrats (up eight points from 2010) acknowledge having a firearm in their home.