Amid mass shootings, gun sales surge in California

By Phillip Reese -

If history is a guide, California will see more applications to purchase guns this December than during any other month in history.

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 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 three years.

November 2015 saw the second-highest number of background checks in California of any month in history; the FBI performed about 180,000 background checks last month.

December tends to be the biggest month for gun sales in California; tens of thousands of Californians buy guns as Christmas gifts. Combined with the aftermath of this week's shooting in San Bernardino, the state could see more than 200,000 firearm background checks performed for the first time ever in a single month.

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Note: Graphic and text updated on 12/8 to note increase in background checks related to concealed carry permits.