Guns have been the hottest-selling items for shoppers during this year’s holiday season, as consumers purchased a record number of firearms.
According to FBI reports, the number of background checks in December has broken a record that was previously set in November. There were reportedly 1,534,414 requests made by gun dealers to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System according to a CNN report.
Nearly half a million background checks were done in the week before Christmas.
Black Friday saw a one-day record of 129,166 checks. The previous record was about 98,000, which was set in November 2008. The two days before Christmas, 102,222 background checks were run by NICS.
The number of searches is relative to gun purchases in the sense that people rarely are denied permission to buy firearms after the search. Only about 1.3 percent of buyers are turned down. The number of actual gun purchases is difficult to track, however, because most buyers take home more than one gun.
FBI officials are unclear about how many of the purchases are for first-time gun buyers or gun owners adding to their collection.
The National Rifle Association feels that the numbers indicate more people think they need guns for self defense. NRA spokesperson Andew Arulanandam told CNN that Americans realize police cannot be everywhere there’s trouble, and also that officers are being laid off due to budget cuts.
“I think there’s an increased realization that when something bad occurs, it’s going to be between them and the criminal,” Arulanandam said.
There is also a large, unregulated market for illegal guns on the Internet, as a New York City undercover investigation has found.
In the report “Point, Click, Fire: An Investigation of Illegal Online Gun Sales,” investigators found that sellers on Craigslist agreed to over 80 percent of sales where the buyer couldn’t pass a background check, according to the Huffington Post.
Federal licensed firearms dealers are required to conduct background checks on all buyers. However, private, unlicensed dealers are exempt from conducting background checks. The Huffington Post reports that this creates a “gun show loophole” which currently accounts for 40 percent of U.S. sales, with the help of the Internet.
Law enforcement officials say this is a huge black market for illegal guns. More than 4,000 websites offer guns for sale, according to the Department of Justice.
An online dealer was linked to the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre that killed 32 people and the shooting at Northern Illinois University in 2008, which left five dead. Illegal guns online have also been linked to police shootings, gun trafficking and sales to minors.
During the New York investigation, 15 undercover agents captured audio and video recordings of online gun sellers deliberately breaking the laws that prohibit the sale of guns to felons, the mentally ill, domestic abusers and other prohibited buyers. The agents investigated 125 private sellers over an 18-day period in 14 states who sold on 10 different websites.
They found over 25,000 guns for sale on the sites.
“Criminal buyers who once had to purchase in person can now prowl hundreds of thousands of listings to find unscrupulous sellers. Negotiations can be conducted from the discreet remove of a phone call or an email exchange,” the Department of Justice said.
Results from the report will be announced today by Mayor Bloomberg, who is a long-time gun control advocate. He will be joined by Police commissioner Raymond Kelly and other officials.