WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of federal background checks for firearms sales declined in the U.S. last month, as retailers continue to run out of guns to sell during a buying spree driven by Washington’s new focus on gun control.
Background checks decreased 10 percent nationally between December and January, with large declines in the Southern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia as well as Texas, according to an Associated Press analysis of new FBI data published Tuesday.
Firearms sales surged around the country after the December shooting spree in Newtown, Conn. A gunman killed 20 children and six adults at the school.
There were more than 2.78 million checks in December. That was a 12-month peak following an upward trend through last fall. The number fell to 2.48 million in January, still a higher figure than any other month than December last year.
“You can’t do a background check if a guy doesn’t have a gun to buy,” said Mike Fotia, manager at Duke’s Sport Shop in New Castle, Pa. “There’s nothing to buy.”
Fotia said manufacturers and wholesalers can’t fill orders right now because demand is so high.
Gun sales traditionally dip after the rush of the holiday shopping season, and the decrease this year is the smallest since 1998 when the federal government began tracking federally mandated National Instant Criminal Background Checks. This year’s smaller decrease confirms what gun-sellers have reported seeing: There continues to be a higher interest in firearms than in previous years, but there have been fewer buyers recently because gun stores are out of stock.
“Availability has been an issue. You’re just not able to sell as much,” said Katie Stulce who owns Champion Firearms Corp. in College Station, Texas. “We’re probably turning away 60 percent of the people coming in wanting to buy something.”
The number of background checks does not necessarily represent the number of firearms purchased, but gun manufacturers use these statistics to measure the health of the gun industry in the U.S.
Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi saw the largest declines in background checks from December to January, by nearly one-third. Those states also saw some of the highest increases in background checks between November and December last year.
Even before the Newtown shooting massacre and pledges from the White House to curb gun violence with new laws, the gun industry was experiencing a boom in sales. Manufacturers couldn’t keep up with demand. After Newtown, gun sales went up even more. People in the gun business called the rush to buy guns after the Newtown shooting a “banic,” meaning people are panicked President Barack Obama would ban guns, said Bill Bernstein, owner of the East Side Gun Shop in Nashville, Tenn.
The FBI conducted more background checks for firearm sales and permits to carry guns the week following the Newtown shooting than it has in any other one-week period since 1998. The second-highest week for background checks came mid-January as Obama announced sweeping plans to curb gun violence.
Bernstein said that rush changed for him about two weeks ago, when business started to slow. Background checks decreased by 24 percent between December and January in Tennessee, while checks went up by 53 percent there between November and December. Bernstein said sales in his store went down 23 percent between December and January.
“It felt like somebody just flipped a switch,” Bernstein said. “One day I had the shop filled with people, the phone ringing off the hook. The next day, hardly anything.”
On the Web:
Follow Eileen Sullivan on Twitter:
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets
- 5 reasons to look forward to watching the D-backs this season
- Common virus attributed to spike in head and neck cancers
- 5 signs it’s time to end your timeshare ownership
- 3 most overlooked ways to keep your home healthy
- 6 ways the air in your home could be making you sick
- CrossFit dangers: 5 common injuries and how to deal with them
- Today's radiation treatments offer better success, fewer side effects
- Tips to make watching TV on the patio even better
- What really happens when you donate to a community college?
- Sun and skin cancer: Separating fact from fiction
- 5 critical lifestyle changes for a healthy colon