Big jump in December background checks for firearm purchases

All of the talk in December about pursuing gun-control legislation had a big impact on the firearms industry — only perhaps not the impact intended by gun-control advocates.  The FBI reported yesterday that background checks for firearms purchases rose 40% over November to 2.8 million, almost a million more than the previous December:

The FBI reported a record-high number of background checks for firearms purchases in the month of December, in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

According to a report from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System out Wednesday, there were about 2.8 million background checks on those seeking to purchase firearms last month. That total was 2 million the previous month, and 1.9 million in December of 2011, news accounts noted.

Fox pointed out that this was a 49% increase from last December, which means that this wasn’t a Christmas retail season issue.  People got motivated to buy themselves a firearm, and it’s not difficult to figure out why.  The proposals on the table for gun control would necessarily grandfather existing firearms owned, and gun owners want to make sure they beat the deadline — just in case.

Take a look at the FBI stats in the report, too.  Some of the states with the biggest numbers of background checks come as no surprise: Texas and Kentucky, for example, are big gun-rights states.  Some others are more surprising, though, and point out the political risk for politicians attempting to pursue gun control.  Illinois makes it nearly impossible to carry a gun and nearly as difficult to own one, but requests for background checks jumped 22% to over 112,000.  There are few states as liberal as California these days, but background checks increased more than 32% to 150,805 in December.  Florida is a swing state, and saw background requests jump 52% to 134,345.  Even in solidly blue Pennsylvania, bitter clingers pushed background-check requests up 33% to 133,241.

Nor does gun control seem to have the same cachet as it did a couple of weeks ago, at least not on social media.  Dylan Byers reports that interest in the subject didn’t “survive Christmas”:

On the day of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., we published a chart showing the Sisyphean nature of the national gun control discussion. In the immediate aftermath of a shooting, such as the one that took place in Aurora, Colo., mentions of the term “gun control” spike in the news media. In a matter of days, that discussion all but disappears. …

Blame it on the fiscal cliff, blame it on Christmas, blame it on our ability to forget, but the national discussion about gun control has once again ebbed. Mentions of the term “gun control” on television, in newspapers, and in online media are down to pre-Sandy Hook levels, according to the Nexis database.

As Dylan notes in an update, screening out references to Piers Morgan and David Gregory makes the trend even more pronounced.  Speaking of whom, Gregory’s former colleague David Shuster wants Gregory to apologize for his magazine stunt before police take the case to its legal conclusion, and scolds Meet the Press for its silence:

None the less, Washington, D.C. police are now stuck. If they let David Gregory off without getting any acknowledgment from him that he made a mistake, police will be throwing “equal justice under the law” out the window. After all, would an African-American in Southeast D.C. who violated a gun law — and wouldn’t acknowledge it — get a break? Of course not.

And yet, each day the Gregory investigation continues, D.C. police are wasting more precious resources and time.

I appreciate that NBC counsel have apparently urged David Gregory, his staff, and all executives not to say anything while the investigation continues. But in this case, the narrow interests of a company lawyer undercut the ethical obligations of Meet the Press to journalism and the city of Washington, D.C.

There is nothing that prevents David Gregory from showing some respect to those institutions right now by saying something like, “I am sorry that my actions have caused a police investigation. My team and I will cooperate fully with D.C. police and do whatever we can to help resolve this matter.”

For now, however, David Gregory and NBC News offer only silence and “no comment.”

This is unfortunate and hypocritical. Not taking responsibility is what Gregory himself accused the Obama White House of doing in October over Benghazi. Gregory said at the time, “the buck stops with the White House and the president on these matters.”

Well, either a so-called “high-capacity magazine” is dangerous on its own, or it’s not.  And in fact, it’s only dangerous when the owner intends to use it in a dangerous manner.  That’s the reason that Gregory’s journalistic colleagues are aghast that anyone would prosecute him merely for possessing it (and brandishing it on TV) — it’s because it clearly isn’t dangerous in and of itself, not in Gregory’s hands or in the hands of any other law-abiding gun owner.  Gregory’s stunt exposed the falsity of the underlying premise of the law, which is probably what Gregory and NBC will have to argue if police bring charges against him — a somewhat ironic end to his stunt.