The guns of Georgia: Background checks shatter records

The FBI performed a record number of background checks on Georgians who engaged in firearms transactions last month – an emphatic cap to a record year.

In December alone, licensed gun dealers from Georgia sent 96,508 queries to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, known as NICS, the FBI says. For the year, the bureau processed 566,946 background checks on Georgians.

The December number exceeded the state’s monthly record, set exactly three years earlier, by 22 percent. The year’s total exceeded 2013’s record by 7 percent.

The Georgia numbers reflect national trends. NICS recorded five of its 10 busiest weeks ever between late November and the end of December. Two days during that period ranked in the top 10 since NICS began operating in November 1998.

The background checks reflect gun sales, of course, but also applications for gun-carry permits for existing weapons. Mass shootings and acts of terrorism, such as the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, always drive requests for background checks, as do calls for stricter gun control.

Background checks spiked after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school in December 2012. That shooting prompted a gun-control proposal from President Barack Obama – one that Congress quickly rejected.

Another surge seems likely now that Obama has signed executive orders expanding the requirements for background checks.

Federal law already required licensed gun dealers to request background checks before any sale. Obama expanded the definition of dealers to include people who sell at gun shows and on the Internet without a federal license.

The law forbids firearms purchases by several classes of people: those with criminal records or who have been judged mentally ill, for instance. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible to buy guns. Nor are people who were dishonorably discharged from the military or who renounced their U.S. citizenship.

Since 1998, the FBI has blocked about 1.3 million people from buying guns – about five of every 1,000 who requested background checks.

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