FBI gun background checks hit record highs
The FBI performed nearly 2.8 million background checks on people wanting to buy guns in December, a record month that capped a record year.
The FBI performed more than 2.78 million checks in the final month of the year. That followed a record November. For 2012, the agency ran more than 19.5 million background checks, another record that represented a year-over-year increase of more than three million.
Under federal law, sales staff at stores licensed by the government to sell firearms are required to call the FBI or another approved agency to make sure the buyer does not have a criminal record or a history of serious mental illness, which would legally prohibit the sale.
The system does not account for all U.S. gun purchases, however. Many gun shows are not covered and private sales, such as one hunter selling a weapon to another, also are not subject to checks.
Also remember that a few states require a fresh NICS check for people renewing pistol permits. But one check can be used for purchasing several guns at once, and nobody has any real idea how many legal private “gun show loophole” sales go on. Plus all the illegal ones. My bet is that it all pretty much evens out, and the monthly NICS numbers reflect about 75% of all the actual transactions. So in my opinion, the number of guns sold is actually a good bit more than these numbers show. NICS does not track how many sales were for new guns or used ones, but guns last for ages and ages.
But still ... the increase in November 2012 and December 2012 compared to those months last year adds up to nearly 1.4 million, which would be a fat number for any month of any other year on this chart. Total NICS checks for the past 4 years are about equal to the number of checks for the 7 years before that. The 2012 numbers are nearly double the 2006 numbers, and are more than half again larger than the 2008 numbers.
Playing with fire: If we assume a moderate lifespan of 65 years for a firearm, and we take the 1998 numbers as a baseline, assuming that November and December are 10% sales spike months, and further assuming that sales increase about 7% each year, which was damn optimistic prior to either Obama or the War on Terror, then it can be extrapolated that a further 120 million firearms were purchased between 1948 and 1998. This ignores the post WWII glut of military weapons dumped on the market by the US government and foreign imports. But it adds up to 280 million guns, and is probably a highly conservative number, given that firearms can easily last 100 years or more, and that the 7% growth rate was probably more like 3% for decades. Adjusted for a bit of reality, it’s pretty safe to say that there are at least 350 million firearms in private hands in the USA. And our current population is what, about 312 million?
UPDATE: Hammer Time (ie “can’t touch this") On a related note, the Samizdat network (all the VRWC blogs and some few news pages) is trumpeting today how the latest FBI UCR numbers show that hammers and other blunt instruments are used as murder weapons 50% more often than rifles are. And that hands and fists are used 230% more often. The numbers vary a bit year to year, but from the available data, 1995-2011, the trend remains constant. See FBI Table 11, and the same data expanded to the state level in Table 20 for 2011 data. For earlier years, go here.
The FBI has not published microscopic granularity numbers of rifle murders categorized by type. Too bad, because they have that data. There are only 5 types, broadly speaking. And just in case they do release it, and it turns out that bolt action scoped hunting rifles are the weapons of choice (evil sniper rifles!!) their own statistics claim there was only 1 sniper murder this past year. And that was done with a handgun. Don’t ask me how you can snipe with a pistol. Maybe it was one of those long barrel Encore ones with a scope and a bipod. But there was only one of them.
At the other end of the spectrum, to be fair and balanced, rifles were only used to kill offenders - justifiable homicides - just a dozen times by private citizens. Handguns did the job on average 10 times more often for police and for private citizens.
The only thing is that you can’t practically assault a government facility with a hammer or a crowbar. Very difficult to remove a government official from it’s office with pitchforks when it has an armed detail protecting it.