The number of FBI background checks required for Americans buying guns set a record in December, indicating that more people may purchase one after the Connecticut school massacre stirred interest in self-defense and prompted renewed talk of limits on firearms, according to FBI data.
The FBI said it recorded 2.78 million background checks during the month, surpassing the mark set in November of 2.01 million checks – about a 39 percent rise.
The latest monthly figure was up 49 percent over December 2011, when the FBI performed a then-record 1.86 million checks.
Consumer demand for guns appears to have accounted for the uptick in activity. There were no changes in FBI background check procedures that would have affected the December numbers, FBI spokesman Stephen Fischer said.
December is typically the busiest month of the year for checks, however, due in part to Christmas gift sales.
The figures do not represent the number of firearms sold, a statistic the government does not track. They also do not reflect activity between private parties, such as family members or collectors, because federal law requires background checks only for sales from commercial vendors with a federal license.
Someone who passes a background check is eligible to buy multiple firearms.
FBI checks for all of 2012 totaled 19.6 million, an annual record and an increase of 19 percent over 2011.
The FBI system – known as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) – “processed transactions following normal established protocols,” Fischer said in an email.