DENVER
05/21/2013 10:53 am ET Updated May 21, 2013

Gun Sales Soar In Colorado While State Lawmakers Pass Sweeping Gun Control Legislation

As Colorado lawmakers passed historic and sweeping gun control laws during the first quarter of the year, gun sales surged, breaking new records in the state.

Over the weekend, The Denver Post reported that from January to March there were 146,949 background checks processed for potential firearm buyers -- that's an increase of 69,628 checks from the same period just a year ago, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation data.

The legislative session began in January and multiple gun bills were debated through the end of the session. By March, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed several new gun bills into law including universal background checks for all private gun sales and transfers, the cost of background checks placed on the gun buyer and a 15-round limit to ammo magazines.

"The demand has been artificially created," State Sen. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora), a sponsor of the universal background check bill, said to The Denver Post. "Many groups have been telling people these laws will take guns away, which is not true."

It appears as if 2013 could be another banner year for gun sales in Colorado. 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 -- and that was an increase of 23 percent, or 78,542 checks, from 2011. The largest volume of checks came in December at 53,453.

A background check generally takes minutes in Colorado, but during the end of December 2012 and into January 2013, the CBI's queue has been hovering around 10,000 checks, causing a wait time of more than nine days. That more than doubled the wait time just from earlier in December when gun buyers saw background checks taking 100 hours or more.

There were several unusual surges in gun sales in Colorado in 2012. 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.

The tragic Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn., also caused a surge in gun sales in Colorado and across the nation. Fox31 reported that the AR-15, a military-style assault weapon that was used in the Sandy Hook shooting as well as the Aurora shooting, was virtually sold out in Colorado gun shops last December.

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.

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 2012 in the Centennial State, as well as in Connecticut -- the homes of two of the nation's bloodiest mass shootings last year.

The perceived fear of new restrictions on guns driving firearm purchases is nothing new. Nationally, a gun sales bump was observed close to President Barack Obama's election in 2008 due to a fear that he would take people's guns away, as Newser reported. And gun sales spiked again following Obama's reelection in November 2012.

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.

And as the debate over gun control intensified in Washington at the start of 2013, the FBI received a historically high number of gun background checks during that same period, according to CNN.

February marked the fourth month in a row that background checks topped 2 million -- though the number did drop from the prior month. Before that streak, the number of gun background checks per month had never exceeded 1.8 million

"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 firearms. 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."

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