More guns sold in California last month than any other month on record

By Phillip Reese - preese@sacbee.com

California gun dealers sold about 134,000 guns last month amid renewed discussion about gun control in the wake of the San Bernardino mass shooting.

Some of the nation's largest recent mass shootings have been followed by big increases in gun purchase applications, as reflected by the number of background checks performed by the FBI, federal data show.

In particular, the Columbine, Aurora and Newtown mass shootings heralded record-breaking numbers of gun purchase applications in California. Those shootings led to increased talk of gun control - and increased gun sales.

The San Bernardino shooting, along with an uptick in Christmas gun purchases, led to more gun sales in California than seen after either Columbine or Aurora, FBI data show. No other month saw more background checks in California since the FBI started performing them in the late 1990s.

California has seen between 800,000 and 960,000 gun sales during each of the prior four years, state and federal data show. By comparison, a decade ago, between 2002 and 2005, the state never saw more than 345,000 gun sales in a single year.

The FBI generally conducts background checks in two situations: Before a new gun purchase and before a new permit like a "concealed carry" license is issued to a gun owner. The state has seen a sharp increase in gun purchases and a sharp increase in "concealed carry" applications during the last four years.

Background checks give a solid estimate of the number of guns purchased and permits issued, but they are not a perfect measure. A relatively small number of background checks result in denials and some would-be buyers choose not to proceed with a purchase after a check. In addition, some buyers purchase more than one gun following a single background check.

President Barack Obama this week announced an executive order that would, among other things, make it harder for individuals to sell a large number of guns online without conducting background checks. California already requires checks for all gun sales, including those between private sellers.

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