2011 Record Year for Gun Background Checks

2011 might not be the year the economy or the real estate market turned around, but it may be remembered in history as the year with the most gun-related FBI background checks, according to Reuters. A story published recently revealed the FBI saw 16.5 million queries from firearm sellers – a 15-percent increase from 2010 and the highest since the FBI began keeping track of NCIS inquiries in 1998.

But, does more background checks mean more firearms are actually being bought? Not necessarily. A background check simply indicates a request – not if an actual gun was purchased. Gun dealers request brief FBI background checks on each potential buyer; criminal charges and other red flags, such as extensive mental health history, can bar a potential buyer. At the same time, though, one background check may be conducted for the purchase of multiple firearms.

Gun purchases have increased since 2006, and 2011’s higher background check numbers may correlate with similar figures, although the FBI does not keep track. During this time, Kentucky, Texas, and Utah, in order, have had the greatest concentrations of background check requests. Utah, unlike the other two, is considered less stringent with firearm purchases, and applying for a permit, which is recognized in most states, is cheaper.

Although background checks for firearms were up overall in 2011, December saw the greatest amount, with 1.5 million performed. In fact, as the Telegraph noted, 500,000 were conducted just six days before Christmas.

But, why 2011? Some think that increased gun sales are related to the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming presidential election. Stricter gun control laws, likely as the result of the Tucson shooting which happened nearly a year ago, might be another reason. Why do you think requests for background checks increased over the past year?