A record selling gun year also means an increase to FBI background checks before anyone buys an assault rifle or other type of firearm. The government performed nearly 2.8 million checks in December due to recent gun control talks.
The numbers from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System on Wednesday did not show how many firearms buyers actually took home from federally licensed gun stores. Some purchasers may have bought more than one weapon.
Data is made publicly available, but the FBI but does not generally try to explain increases in the number of checks.
However, recent figures have shown more checks are performed after gun-related tragedies such as the December 14 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and 6 adults.
Data also showed the FBI generally is asked to run more checks in November and December, the holiday shopping months.
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.
Most gun shops across the nation are running out of ammunition and AR-15 assault rifles. In addition, anti-weapon groups are concerned that the recent increasing for weapon sales could lead to another shooting.