/FBI posts big Black Friday gun check numbers; second-largest single day in program history

FBI posts big Black Friday gun check numbers; second-largest single day in program history

Background checks, required for purchases at federally licensed firearm dealers, are not a measure of actual gun sales, but can be used to gauge market demand.

WASHINGTON – The FBI fielded more than 200,000 background checks on Black Friday gun purchases, continuing a steady surge this year following a series of mass shootings that have renewed calls for more restrictive gun laws.

In all, the bureau posted 202,465 checks Friday, an 11% increase from last year and falling just short of the single-day record: 203,086 in 2017.

While background checks, required for purchases at federally licensed firearm dealers, are not a measure of actual gun sales, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System is a way to gauge market demand. The number of firearms sold Friday is likely higher because multiple firearms can be included in one transaction by a single buyer.

Black Friday traditionally has been one of the busiest for FBI analysts, but this year’s one-day number comes amid rising monthly volumes that are approaching the one-year record of 27.5 million in 2016.

Some of the biggest spikes came in August and September after attacks in El Paso and Odessa, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left 38 people dead.

Past spikes in background checks have been driven by fears that lawmakers would tighten gun laws.

For the first time since the bureau began conducting checks in 1998, the number of monthly checks has not fallen below 2 million this year.

USA TODAY reported last week that the rising numbers suggest the industry may beemerging from the “Trump slump” that followed the election of the pro-gun president.

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In 2016, when the Obama administration sought tougher gun control legislation, the FBI was inundated with requests for background checks. That’s the year the bureau processed a record number of checks.

This year, the FBI has requested additional money and personnel to deal with the workload.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, in testimony this year before a House committee, cited increasing background checks in his request for 40 new positions and $4.2 million. Some of the money would be used for new equipment.

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Gun check numbers need only remain steady for the rest of the year to break the annual record. The FBI recorded nearly 23 million checks through the end of October. But the political calendar and continuing gun violence is likely to keep demand up.

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Several of the leading candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have called for measures including bans on assault-style weapons, universal background checks and voluntary gun buybacks. And a new entry, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has poured millions of dollars into campaigns advocating for tighter controls on firearms.