Year of the Gun: Americans’ Pursuit of Firearms Surged in 2015

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It was a bang-up year to be a gun retailer. The FBI conducted a record-high 23.1 million firearm background checks in 2015.

That’s a whopping 44 background checks per minute. The previous annual record for gun background checks was 21 million in 2013.

Although a background check doesn’t necessarily indicate that a firearm is sold, the checks are representative of a trend in gun purchases. So a record year for firearm background checks suggests that 2015 was also a record year for gun sales. Says CNN Money:

The sales were driven by a series of mass shootings that typically motivate buyers who fear more restrictive gun control measures. Shootings also make people feel unsafe, so they buy guns for self-protection.

Firearm background checks, which are processed by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), are designed to screen potential gun buyers for “federally prohibiting criteria,” including mental illness, felony convictions, drug abuse and a history of domestic violence.

Not only does 2015 hold the annual record for firearm background checks, it also holds the record for the most checks conducted in a single day and the most checks conducted in a month.

NICS processed 185,345 background checks on Black Friday (Nov. 27), surpassing the previous one-day record of 177,170 in 2012, which occurred about a week after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

December 2015 is now the biggest month on record for firearm background checks — with a total of 3,314,594 checks recorded. “It was the first month to surpass 3 million since the FBI started tracking background checks in 1998,” explains CNN Money.

More than 300 mass shootings occurred in the United States in 2015, including the Dec. 2 attack in San Bernardino, California, which left 14 dead and 22 seriously wounded.

High-profile shootings, coupled with President Barack Obama’s promises to tighten gun laws, typically fuel an increase in gun sales, as fear drives many Americans to stock up on ammo and firearms.

Obama plans to announce gun control initiatives this week, according to CNBC. The measures, which he discussed with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday, will be implemented through executive action and do not require congressional approval.

The president said his goal is to make sure that “criminals, people who are mentally unstable, and those who could pose a danger to themselves and others” are less likely to obtain a firearm, CNBC says.

Stocks for firearm manufacturers Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co. rose sharply ahead of Obama’s meeting with Lynch.

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