Dilemma for gun control in U.S.


Supporters of gun control legislation hold candles and placards during a rally to pay respect for the shooting victims in front of the White House in Washington, capital of the United States. (File photo, Xinhua)

The horrific Connecticut elementary school shooting has reignited the debate over gun control in the United States but at the same time gun sales have increased dramatically in the country.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recorded gun sales in December 2012 with more than 2.7 million background checks being conducted through its National Instant Check System (NICS).

In December, 2,783,765 total background checks were carried out to purchase firearms, surpassing the previous record from November 2012 when 2,006,919 checks were performed, officials said.

About 19.6 million background checks were carried out for firearm purchases in 2012, a 19-percent rise from 2011 and more than in any year since 1998, according to the FBI.

Each check doesn't represent a single gun, just a single background check transaction.

Since the NICS system was established in November 1998, a total of 160,474,702 background checks were made. Of these, only around 0.006 percent of those attempted purchases were denied and 0.00008 percent (fewer than a hundred people a year) were prosecuted for lying on the form.

Analysts attributed the spike in sales late last year to concerns over possible new gun control regulations following the presidential election in November and the Connecticut school shooting in mid-December.

There now are millions more guns in California, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, than there were 10 years ago.

The California attorney general's office said gun dealers sold 600,000 guns in the state in 2011, up from 350,000 in 2002.

The decade long surge in gun sales was driven partially by a widespread fear of more gun controls, some analysts said.

The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research said that 10 years ago, roughly 5 million Californians, or 20 percent of the state's adults, had at least one gun in their home. Since then, California gun dealers have sold another 4 million guns.

The uptick in sales started in 2004, but exploded around 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president.

"When the president or senators threaten to take people's gun rights away, that's when we see things really pick up," said Bryan Schaff, owner of Hoffmeyer's Firearms & Sporting Goods in Grass Valley.

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, obviously became another reason for more people to buy guns.

Gun supporters hold that people, not guns, are to blame for the shootings.

Some researchers say that more important than the increase in gun sales is who is buying guns. Young men are the most likely demographic group to be injured or killed with a gun, state health records show.

Despite the debate, California goes ahead with some new gun laws for 2013.

The long gun open carry ban law prohibits the open carrying of unloaded long guns, such as rifles and shotguns, in public places.

There is no deny that firearms industry in the U.S. is thriving despite the debate over gun control, and it seems that the "guns for guns" attitude has been shared by many Americans, thus making gun control more difficult in the country.

The firearms industry's total economic impact on the United States in 2012 is estimated at 31.8 billion dollars, according to the U.S. National Shooting Sports Foundation.

While that's less than 1 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, it's about what Americans spend on the arts in a year.

Altogether, gun makers manufactured about 5.5 million firearms in the U.S. in 2010, a drop of less than 1 percent over 2009, according to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Of that 2010 production, some 242,000 firearms were exported, while an additional 3.25 million were imported from other countries.

According to the National Institute of Justice, as of 2009, Americans owned an estimated 310 million firearms, roughly one for every person in the country.

That represents a doubling of the number of guns owned per capita since 1968. America's domestic arsenal includes some 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 82 million shotguns.