Since the school shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, America has gone on an unprecedented gun-buying binge, the numbers of which are staggering. Nine of the ten days with the most daily requested FBI background checks in history have occurred since Newtown — including the day of the tragedy itself. And the home of the tragedy has seen gun permits more than double.
Background checks are one of the best ways to gauge gun sales, since federal law mandates gun stores conduct one for each purchase. It's more unclear than ever how many gun purchases get a check, but the number of background checks is far higher now than in previous years. 2011 and 2012 were both significantly above the 1998 - 2010 monthly average; 2013 was higher still.
But here's what it looks like in raw numbers, each month since the FBI started tracking background checks in late 1998.
In the intervening 5,224 days since the FBI started recording background check data, nine of the ten days with the most requests have come since the day after last Thanksgiving.
Days with the highest number of checks since 1998
- Fri., Dec. 21, 2012, 177,170 checks
- Thu., Dec. 20, 2012, 159,604 checks
- Fri., Nov. 23, 2012, 154,873 checks
- Sat., Dec. 22, 2012, 153,697 checks
- Wed., Dec. 19, 2012, 153,672 checks
- Tue., Dec. 18, 2012, 134,691 checks
- Fri., Nov. 25, 2011, 129,166 checks
- Sat., Dec. 15, 2012, 128,823 checks
- Fri., Dec. 14, 2012, 113,022 checks
- Fri., Feb. 15, 2013, 112,650 checks
And in the intervening 746 weeks since November 1998, the ten weeks with the most checks have all happened since the Newtown shooting. The highest week of all time was the one immediately following the tragedy; the week of the tragedy itself ranks fifth, even though the massacre occurred on Friday.
Weeks with the highest number of checks since 1998
- 12/17/2012 – 12/23/2012, 953,613 checks
- 01/14/2013 – 01/20/2013, 641,501 checks
- 02/11/2013 – 02/17/2013, 618,361 checks
- 01/07/2013 – 01/13/2013, 603,882 checks
- 12/10/2012 – 12/16/2012, 602,003 checks
- 02/04/2013 – 02/10/2013, 592,542 checks
- 02/25/2013 – 03/03/2013, 565,699 checks
- 02/18/2013 – 02/24/2013, 543,259 checks
- 01/21/2013 – 01/27/2013, 541,822 checks
- 12/03/2012 – 12/09/2012, 527,095 checks
The Sandy Hook massacre lit a fuse — and even at the site of the tragedy itself sales have spiked. Gun shops in Newtown are seeing sales at a rate at least double normal.
CBS Connecticut talked to the Newtown police.
Newtown in recent years has issued about 130 gun permits annually. Police say the town received 79 permit applications in the three months since the Dec. 14 massacre, well over double the normal pace.
Gun applicants traditionally involved hunters, target shooters and business owners, but now police are seeing a wider variety of applicants, [Robert Berkins, records manager for Newtown police] said. Some said they never thought about getting a gun but heard their right to have one is going to be taken away, he said.
Newtown's spike mirrors the state of Connecticut, which also saw an increase, though at a slower rate than the rest of the country. Below are the last 14 months of checks for the U.S. and Connecticut; note the dip for Connecticut in December.
Meaning that, if anything, a doubling of the number of requests in Newtown could be a slower pace than the rest of the country. Newtown's gun sales are increasing because Newtown is in America. And America is buying guns at a rate that we've never seen before.