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Background checks for gun sales on the rise

12:06 PM, Dec 13, 2012   |    comments
(Photo: Scott Olson Getty Images)
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The bureau's National Instant Check System (NICS) does not track actual firearms sales - multiple guns can be included in one purchase. But the steady rise in background checks - from 8.5 million in 2002 to 16.8 million in 2012 - tracks other indicators that signal escalating gun sales.

Advocates on both sides of the gun-rights debate disagree over what is driving the trend. Gun-rights groups attribute the steady increase to the growing popularity of hunting and other gun-recreation uses, the impact of state laws allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns and concerns that the Obama administration will push for laws restricting weapons purchases.

Gun-control advocates, led by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, say existing gun owners are responsible for most new purchases (about 20% of gun owners possess 65% of the nation's guns, according to a 2006 Harvard study). Brady Campaign President Dan Gross said concerns about new gun-control laws are part of a "marketing ploy" to keep firearms moving.

No gun-control legislation was passed in President Obama's first term and no major proposal was offered during the 2012 presidential election campaign.

Still, there is an "expectation" that new gun-control proposals will surface in Obama's second term, said National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. "People expect a siege on the Second Amendment (right to bear arms).''

Larry Keane, senior vice president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said gun-related recreation - from hunting to target shooting on the range - is growing, too.

From 2006 through 2011, spending on hunting equipment grew by nearly 30%, according to a national survey published in August by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Keane said the overall firearms industry has thrived despite the sputtering economy and the decline in violent crime. "Personal safety still is a big reason people purchase firearms,'' Keane said. "The economic downturn, I think, raised fears that crime would eventually go back up."

"The industry appears to run counter to the economic cycle," he said. "When the economy is not doing well, the industry seems to be doing better."

In Wisconsin, when a law allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons took effect in November 2011, the FBI reported a corresponding surge in background-check requests by local gun dealers. Wisconsin was the 49th state to approve carrying a concealed weapon. Illinois is the only state without such a law.


FEDERAL GUN CHECKS ON RISE

FBI records show the number of background checks for gun buyers has nearly doubled over the past decade. A state-by-state breakdown for 2000 and 2012. (Source: FBI)

State 2000 2012
Alabama 221,911 350,700
Alaska 39,959 72,904
Arizona 148,263 290,868
Arkansas 169,628 207,363
California 794,506 981,798
Colorado 307,512 361,385
Connecticut 87,586 208,250
Delaware 15,347 25,098
District of Columbia 17 398
Florida 266,035 699,974
Georgia 352,357 386,562
Hawaii 6,609 15,414
Idaho 77,138 115,927
Illinois 449,771 923,920
Indiana 182,319 404,259
Iowa 87,796 128,293
Kansas 96,716 175,427
Kentucky 229,896 2,329,151
Louisiana 174,706 266,593
Maine 45,028 79,418
Maryland 84,309 117,432
Massachusetts 54,843 185,202
Michigan 300,661 370,960
Minnesota 185,100 385,075
Mississippi 163,980 180,121
Missouri 191,578 432,060
Montana 71,115 115,893
Nebraska 44,825 70,454
Nevada 49,807 123,943
New Hampshire 40,120 108,531
New Jersey 37,106 75,804
New Mexico 84,034 121,882
New York 163,974 290,299
North Carolina 290,884 415,284
North Dakota 32,358 73,878
Ohio 274,165 526,684
Oklahoma 156,988 307,245
Oregon 135,336 222,795
Pennsylvania 481,294 835,293
Rhode Island 9,414 20,180
South Carolina 128,618 265,276
South Dakota 36,723 73,658
Tennessee 234,673 432,200
Texas 662,970 1,196,176
Utah 67,420 198,091
Vermont 20,300 29,662
Virginia 188,508 371,267
Washington 134,255 444,762
West Virginia 128,258 191,550
Wisconsin 180,492 413,842
Wyoming 34,295 53,480



(Copyright © 2012 USA TODAY)

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