Black Friday may have set shopping records – for guns

The number of federal firearm background checks on Black Friday exceeded the runs following America's worst mass shootings.

Ted S. Warren/AP
Gun owners, including Garrett Bosworth, 16, center, of Yakima, Wash., pose for a selfie photo as they display their weapons, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., following a protest about background checks for gun sales.

Guns must be on a lot of Christmas lists this year, as the FBI processed a record number of background checks on Black Friday. The 185,345 checks easily exceeded past records set after mass shootings.

This makes Black Friday 2015 the largest single day for firearm background checks, which provide a rough estimate of gun sales, FBI spokesman Stephen Fischer confirmed to Fortune. 

Black Friday is not a lone wolf statistic for 2015. The FBI has reported record monthly background checks for every month this year since May. The FBI has not yet announced the number of checks for November, but the high number on Nov. 27 indicates that it will probably break November records as well. 

While the number of background checks offers a good estimate for gun sales, it probably does not precisely correlate with the number of guns purchased. Not everyone checked bought a gun on Black Friday, as some sought checks as part of obtaining concealed carry permits and others bought multiple guns at once. 

The previous record for gun checks in a single day was Dec. 21, 2012, a week after a mass shooting occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The Black Friday 2015 stat beat that record of 177,170 by 8,175 checks, and gun checks for the 2015 holiday season are already up by almost 10 percent from last year, according to the National Rifle Association (NRA).

"This year is poised to eclipse 2013’s record-setting total of 21,093,273," according to a press release from the NRA. 

The new record resulted from one major impetus for gun sales converging with another. Black Friday is typically a big day for gun sales, and Cabela's and other gun retailers were advertising deals for firearms as part of their regular Black Friday lineup. 

Mass shootings inspire gun sales, as well, because gun enthusiasts take a "now or never" approach in fear that gun control will clamp down, says Mr. Fischer from the FBI. Out of the top 10 record-setting days for background checks prior to Black Friday 2015, the FBI reports, four came in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings and three were set during Black Friday sales. The Christian Science Monitor reported:

Guns sales spiked in 2008 and 2012 following US President Barack Obama’s elections, as the Monitor has reported in 2013. Why? In fear of new restrictions, more people purchase guns sooner rather than later. President Obama has pushed for more laws on gun control throughout his presidency. 

The FBI launched the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in 1998 because of a mandate in the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, according to the FBI website. The system requires that firearm sellers get a federal license. Before each sale, the cashier calls or, more recently, uses an online E-check system, to check the prospective buyer for a criminal record. In the last decade, the agency has carried out more than 100 million checks – and denied more than 700,000 applications. 

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