2012 was a good year to be in the gun business in Colorado. According to a new report by The Denver Post, background checks in Colorado surged in 2012 shattering 10 years of previous records.
According to data from the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), there were 414,838 background checks processed last year in Colorado -- that's an increase of 23 percent, or 78,542 checks, from 2011. The largest volume of checks came in December at 53,453.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the agency which processes the background checks in the state, has had severely increased wait times on a background checks due to surging gun sales. A background check generally takes minutes in Colorado, but since end of December and now into January, the CBI's queue has been hovering around 10,000 checks, causing a wait time of more than nine days. That more than doubles the wait time just from earlier in December when gun buyers saw background checks taking 100 hours or more.
The CBI data also showed that from January through November of 2012, there were 34,117 more background checks submitted than in all of 2011. But the record-shattering continued through the end of 2012 with 1,000 new checks submitted to the CBI just on Christmas Eve alone.
Since the tragic Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, gun sales have been surging in Colorado and across the nation. Fox31 reports that the AR-15, a military-style assault weapon that was used in the Sandy Hook shooting as well as the Aurora shooting, is virtually sold out in Colorado gun shops.
The most recent spike in background check requests came in the immediate 48-hour aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting when Colorado set yet another record for background check submittals to buy guns this year.
Although the spike in firearm sales has grown dramatically in Colorado, when compared to the rest of the nation, people were less enthusiastic about buying new guns at the end of the year in the Centennial State, as well as in Connecticut -- the homes of two of the nation's bloodiest mass shootings in 2012.
There have been several unusual surges in gun sales in Colorado in 2012 alone. A large spike in gun sales took place immediately following the tragic Aurora movie theater shooting that left 12 dead and nearly 60 wounded. Just days after the shooting, background checks for people wanting to purchase firearms in the state jumped more than 41 percent. And another sales spike occurred following the Jessica Ridgeway tragedy, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations.
Then, on Black Friday, CBI set a new record in the state processing over 4,000 background checks on people purchasing firearms -- that's nearly 1,000 more checks than were run in 2011 when CBI set a single-day record of checking 3,031 gun buyers, according to 9News. So busy was the CBI that the flood of new applications crashed the system twice on Black Friday.
While the number of firearm applications does not correlate with the number of guns in the state -- since a buyer who has passed the background check can get multiple guns and the state does not track the number of firearm purchases -- as of November of this year, 279,149 firearm applications had been approved out of 285,424. That's over 33,000 more approvals since last year, not counting this month when background check submittals set the latest record.
The same kind of surge in background checks holds true nationally as well. The Associated Press reports that there were nearly twice as many more background checks performed for gun purchases between November and December 2012 than during the same two months in 2011.
Nationally, a gun sales bump happened close to President Barack Obama's election in 2008, and even though buyers' fears have since proven unfounded, Newser reports the fear of a crackdown on guns in Obama's second term has spiked demand once more -- and like clockwork, gun sales spiked following Obama's reelection in November.
"I should put Obama's picture on the wall up there," said an anonymous New Jersey gun salesman to CNBC. "I'd name him salesman of the month!"
But Obama may not be the only reason so many are now interested in packing heat. Analysts say a portion of the increase in sales is due to demographic shifts as well.
"The biggest new group of buyers now are senior citizens," explained Larry Hyatt, the owner of a North Carolina gun shop, to CNBC's Closing Bell. "Ten thousand baby boomers a day are turning 65. They can't run, they can't fight, they got to shoot."
The gun sales rend is likely to continue as lawmakers in Colorado, and in Washington D.C., push for stricter gun control. The White House confirmed Tuesday that President Obama will throw his weight behind passing an assault weapons ban, among other items, when he unveils his full gun violence package on Wednesday.
Vice President Joe Biden is reportedly planning to make universal background checks for all gun purchases the "top priority" of his sweeping series of recommendations on gun policy in the United States, sources close to the talks told The Huffington Post.
Just last week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper called for stricter gun control during his State of the State address asking, "Why not have universal background checks for all gun sales?"
The governor also recently said that "the time is right" for state lawmakers to consider gun control measures -- the strongest stance Hickenlooper has taken on the issue to date, the Associated Press reported.
"When you look at what happened in Aurora, a great deal of that damage was from the large magazine on the AR-15 (rifle)," Hickenlooper said. "I think we need to have that discussion and say, 'Where is this appropriate?'"
Hickenlooper also recently announced a push for new programs to help expand the state's mental health programs.
The 5-point plan Hickenlooper and state health officials are proposing -- called “Strengthening Colorado’s Mental Health System: A Plan to Safeguard All Coloradans” -- would include the establishment of a state-wide mental health crisis hotline, opening five 24-hour urgent mental health care centers and substance abuse centers.
If approved by state lawmakers, the plan would also authorize the Colorado State Judicial System to transfer mental health commitment records electronically and directly to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation in real-time so the information is available for firearm purchase background checks conducted by Colorado InstaCheck.
Hickenlooper is not the only Colorado politician in a pursuit of tighter gun laws, other Colorado lawmakers are pushing for a series of similar measures, both big and small. On the first day of the new congressional session, Rep. Dianna DeGette introduced legislation that she is sponsoring that would ban the production of high-capacity magazines.
Aurora Rep. Rhonda Fields has plans to sponsor bills that would require background checks for all private gun sales and limit high-capacity magazines in the state. "It's a loophole that needs to be changed," the lawmaker said.
Colorado already requires background checks at gun shows, but there is no legislation in place that requires checks on a private party firearm sale.
Boulder Rep. Claire Levy has said that she plans to introduce legislation that would ban guns from inside buildings on all public college campuses in the state, The Daily Camera reported.
Just today in New York, lawmakers agreed to pass the toughest gun control law in the nation and the first since the massacre in Newtown, Conn., calling for a stricter assault weapons ban and measures to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill, The Associated Press reports.
Although, in general, mass shooting events have made little lasting impact on public support for stricter gun laws, polls following the Sandy Hook shooting suggests a bump in support. A HuffPost/YouGov survey from December found that 50 percent of Americans say gun laws should be made more strict. The poll found support for banning semi-automatic weapons as well as magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
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