The FBI processed a record number of firearms-related background checks last year, indicating that more guns were sold in 2015 than in any previous year in American history.
More than 23 million checks were processed through the National Instant Background Check System in 2015, an all-time record.
The all-time record for yearly sales comes after May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December 2015 each set sales records for their respective months. In December the FBI conducted 3,314,594 checks, an increase of more than half a million checks over the previous single-month record set in December 2012.
The number of FBI background checks is widely considered to be the most reliable gauge of how many firearms were sold in a given month because background checks are required on all sales made through federally licensed firearms dealers. However, the checks do not provide an exhaustive representation of gun sales. Checks are not required on sales between private parties in most states, and a single background check may cover the purchase of multiple firearms by the same person at once.
Additionally, some states perform the checks on those who apply for gun-carry permits.
The record gun sales came as Democrats moved to implement new gun control measures at the federal, state, and local levels. Hillary Clinton, the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said that the Supreme Court’s decision in the District of Columbia v. Heller gun rights case was "wrong" and she and President Barack Obama praised Australian-style gun confiscation.
Gun rights activists say that Democrats’ new aggressive posture on gun control contributed to 2015’s record sales.
"A day has not gone by without a major media assault on gun rights or an Obama administration call for new additional restrictions on gun ownership," said Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation. "Americans have voted with their dollars and bought record levels of guns and ammunition."
In the second half of the year, terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California drove gun and ammunition sales even higher. Some dealers reported seeing their business triple in the wake of the attacks, cautioning that the spike was drying up supply in some areas.
Gun rights activist believe that sales will continue to set records in the new year.