After two mass shootings in less than a week, the debate over gun control has once again flared up in the United States. While gun rights advocates argue that carrying a gun is the only way to protect oneself in situations like the one unfolding in Boulder, Colorado on Monday, those in favor of stricter gun laws argue that restricting access to firearms is the best way to prevent mass shootings from happening in the first place.
As indicated by the number of background checks initiated through the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), gun sales surged in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic and repeated eruptions of political unrest boosted demand for firearms. Not only did the NICS perform 39.7 million background checks in 2020 - 10 million more than the previous record - but it also registered 6 of the 10 highest weeks for background checks since 1998 last year, with the three weeks between the Capitol riot and Biden's inauguration also making the list. In fact, January 2021 was another record month, with background checks surpassing 4 million for the first time.
While the FBI notes that "a one-to-one correlation cannot be made between a firearm background check and a firearm sale," the figures are widely considered to be indicative of overall sales activity in the United States. Mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 the FBI launched NICS on November 30, 1998.