The number of federally required background checks of prospective gun purchasers has nearly doubled in the past decade, during a period when violent crime has been in long decline in many places across the USA, reports USA Today. The FBI's National Instant Check System (NICS) does not track actual firearms sales — multiple guns can be included in one purchase. But the steady rise in background checks — from 8.5 million in 2002 to 16.8 million in 2012 — tracks other indicators that signal escalating gun sales.
Advocates on both sides of the gun-rights debate disagree over what is driving the trend. Gun-rights groups attribute the steady increase to the growing popularity of hunting and other gun-recreation uses, the impact of state laws allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns and concerns that the Obama administration will push for laws restricting weapons purchases. Gun-control advocates, led by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, say existing gun owners are responsible for most new purchases (about 20 percent of gun owners possess 65 percent of the nation's guns, according to a 2006 Harvard study). Brady Campaign President Dan Gross said concerns about new gun-control laws are part of a "marketing ploy" to keep firearms moving.