More than 2.5 million gun background checks were performed in January, a record for the month, according to FBI statistics.
The number was lower than the 3.3 million all-time record set in December, but the most for the month of January in any year since the checks began in late 1998.
The number also represented a monthly record for the ninth month in a row and the third month in a row with more than 2 million checks.
The FBI notes that the figures from month-to-month are not hard data on the number of guns sold since states differ in their laws. In some instances, one background check can cover the purchase of more than one gun, and some sheriff’s require background checks to obtain a concealed carry permit even if a gun is not being purchased at the time.
At this rate, the people of the United States will add at least another 20 million guns to the cache by the end of this year — about half as many are owned in all of India. (To understand just how extraordinary is the rate at which Americans are purchasing firearms, take a look at my post on the subject from October.)
Back in 2013, the Washington Post estimated that the number in circulation might be as high as 357 million. If that was correct, the last two years’ worth of sales will have brought that up to at least 400 million – or 1.2 guns for every person here. And if that buying spree continues — indeed, even if it drops off a little – it is entirely possible that, by the time that the next president is running for re-election, there will be half a billion guns in private hands in America.