The Sad Backdrop to the Giffords Anniversary: Record Gun Sales

Ironically, the president's executive actions have gun owners stocking up.

National Journal

Three years after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords suffered a mass shooting that put a bullet through her head and killed six of her constituents, she's penned a moving op-ed in The New York Times discussing her recovery efforts "learning how to talk again, how to walk again," and calling on Americans to move forward with gun-control reforms.

"Violence is a complex problem," she wrote. "No one law will make it go away." And yet, following a year when Democrats tried mightily to pass new gun-control measures in Congress and the White House rolled out executive actions on dozens of gun-control initiatives, the problem isn't getting any better.

The FBI's new statistics on NICS background checks show gun sales hit a record high in 2013.

Firearm background checks conducted for gun sales in the last year total 21,093,273. That's 1,500,970 more than the previous record of 19,592,303 in 2012. The largest number of background checks last year were conducted in Texas (1,633,278) and Kentucky (1,578,331).

The spike comes after President Obama unveiled more than a dozen executive actions on gun control in 2013 and two more in 2014, following the shooting in Newtown, Conn. States that implemented new gun-control measures in 2013 were especially likely to see a spike in gun sales. In Maryland, which recently adopted strict new gun laws, gun sales reached record levels right before the laws went into effect in September.

It's a familiar pattern. Following Obama's election in 2008, retailers saw a similar spike. "I have been in business for 12 years," the owner of a Virginia gun shop told CNN at the time. "I was here for Y2K, September 11, Katrina, and all of those were big events, and we did notice a spike in business, but nothing on the order of what we are seeing right now."

Gun rights advocates feared that the new administration would eventually reinstate an assault-weapons ban, which expired in 2004. They also noted Obama's backing of a ban on semiautomatic weapons when he served in the Illinois Legislature.

After Obama's relection in 2012, gun sales surged yet again. With thousands of Americans "buying up ammo, handguns, and other firearms, citing concerns that Obama might push new regulations in his second term or that U.N. agreements might infringe on the U.S. gun market," according to Texas' Fort Worth Star Telegram.

Gun shops traced the sales increase to Obama's reelection victory. In Fort Worth, gun sales were found to be twice as high as the year before, and the FBI reported an 18 percent spike in background checks in the months leading up to the election, according to reports in the Star Telegram and the Houston Chronicle.

While these statistics represent the number of firearm background checks and cannot be used to make a one-to-one correlation with firearm sales, officials say background checks are the leading indicator of sales growth. The numbers are mirrored by financial data released by firearms companies for 2013.