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Background checks for gun ownership soar in U.S.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newton, Connecticut has made many Americans think about future restrictions placed on private firearm use. Proof of this heightened concern is that background checks required for gun ownership skyrocketed in the U.S. for the month of December.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The FBI said it recorded 2.78 million background checks during December, surpassing the mark set in November of 2.01 million checks, which is a 39 percent rise, up 49 percent over December 2011, when the FBI performed a then-record 1.86 million checks.

U.S. gun purchases accounts for the sudden uptick in activity. According to FBI spokesman Stephen Fischer, there were no changes in FBI background check procedures that would have affected the December numbers.

December is always the busiest month of the year for gun background checks -- in part to Christmas gift sales. It must be noted that the current figures do not represent the number of firearms sold, which a statistic the government does not track. The figures also do not reflect activity between private parties, such as family members or collectors, as federal law requires background checks only for sales from commercial vendors with a federal license.

The FBI system - known as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) - "processed transactions following normal established protocols," Fischer said in an email.

Debate on the Second Amendment and the right of Americans to bear arms has intensified after 20-year-old Adam Lanza forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 children and six adults before committing suicide December 14. The tragedy was one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

Public interest in guns always tend to increase after a mass shooting, as customers fear for personal safety or worry that lawmakers might ban certain firearms. President Barack Obama has suggested about possibly including a ban on some semi-automatic weapons this year.

Gun manufacturers have enjoyed the recent windfall. "The last eight years (have) been very good to be a handgun company. The market has expanded significantly, and long guns having done pretty good, as well," Smith & Wesson Chief Executive James Debney said at a conference for investors two days before the Newton shootings.

Shares of gun maker Smith & Wesson Holding Corp were up 1.2 percent at $8.54 at Wednesday's close, while those of Sturm Ruger & Co Inc were up 1.1 percent at $45.88, during a broad rally in which the Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 2.5 percent.

Some find the trend disturbing. "While the majority of Americans look for solutions to stop the next attack, a minority of gun owners runs to hoard the very guns used in the most recent" incidents, Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, a group that favors gun control says.

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