Record Gun Sales in December, 2012

Record gun sales were recorded in December 2012 with over 2.7 million background checks being conducted through the FBI's National Instant Check System (NICS), the agency said today. For 2012, more background checks were conducted than any year since 1998.

In December, 2,783,765 total background checks were carried out to purchase firearms, surpassing the previous record from November 2012 when 2,006,919 checks were performed.

For the year, 19,592,303 background checks carried out for firearm purchases-a 19 percent rise from 2011.

Each check doesn't represent a single gun, just a single background check transaction.

NICS has access to information from computers at the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, searching records that would prohibit a buyer from owning a gun, such as being a fugitive, having a felony conviction or charge, renouncing U.S. citizenship, or having been determined as mentally impaired. NICS was mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and set up in November 1998.

Since the NICS system was established in November 1998 a total of 160,474,702 background checks were made. Of these, around .006 percent of those attempted purchases were denied and .00008% (fewer than a hundred people a year) were prosecuted for lying on the form.

The monthly totals since 1998 can be viewed here.

The spike in sales late last year may be attributed to concern over possible new gun control regulations following the presidential election in November and the Newtown, Conn., school shooting in December.

According to FBI officials there were no problems with conducting the background checks. In November on the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year the NICS system had two brief outages.