Record Number of Gun Background Checks Before Election

PHOTO: Gina Brewer, the manager of Texas Gun, in San Antonio on June 17 2009. PlayGilles Mingasson/Getty Images
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Government data show the number of people looking for gun permits is surging before Election Day — the 18th straight month of record numbers, according to the system for tracking background checks on gun sales.

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In October, 2.3 million background checks for gun-related purchases were processed, setting an all-time monthly record, according to the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

"The approximate number of firearms units sold has increased. Part of that is because we’re seeing a population increase across the country, it’s currently hunting season and there is a pre-election impact," said Jurgen Brauer, an economics professor at Georgia's Augusta University who specializes in the firearm industry. "Right now, there is a likelihood that a Democratic candidate is going to win, and industry sales reflect that."

The Democratic Party is increasingly well positioned to win control of the Senate, in part because of the potentially adverse down-ballot impact of Donald Trump, but Democrats face an uphill battle to win the House of Representatives.

The next Congress will likely be under pressure from gun control advocates to regulate firearms, especially if there is another mass shooting.

Clinton would like to ban several types of assault weapons and repeal protections for gunmakers. She has said she would create a comprehensive background check system and close loopholes.

Trump has been a staunch advocate of Second Amendment rights and said consistently at rallies during his campaign that if more people were armed, mass shootings like the one last year in San Bernardino, California, would be less deadly.

GOP members of Congress, many of whom are closely aligned with the National Rifle Association, have shown little interest in advancing gun bills and have voted to block Democrats’ efforts to tighten controls. Republicans likely will be able to do so in the next Congress as well.

In the wake of deadly shooting rampages like the one in June in Orlando, Florida, the country has debated tighter gun laws and, more specifically, the availability of military-style weapons.

Largely because of inaction in Congress, however, the gun control debate is no longer front and center at the federal level. But in a handful of states, including California, voters will decide on gun initiatives next week.

"Industry talk appears to suggest that a Clinton win will unleash new federal level firearms legislation. But so-called anti-gun advocacy groups have begun to shift their legislative and lobbying efforts more to the state levels than continuing at the federal level," said Brauer.

Key gun control groups said this election cycle that they are not making an assault weapons ban as much of a priority because they think other policies, including universal background checks, would be more effective ways to save lives. The Center for American Progress released a report suggesting ways to regulate assault weapons without banning them.

One concern among pro-gun activists is the the Supreme Court's ideological balance, which remains uncertain since the death in February of Justice Antonin Scalia. He wrote the 2008 decision District of Columbia v. Heller, which upheld the Second Amendment right to keep guns in the nation's capital.

His seat remains vacant, meaning the next president could appoint his successor.