According to the FBI’s National Instant Check System (NICS) last month was a record breaking month in 2012. There were over 2.7 million background checks being conducted through the system. For the entire year, the FBI reports more checks were conducted than any year in history except 1998.
In December, 2,783,765 total background checks were carried out to purchase firearms, surpassing the previous record from November 2012 when 2,006,919 checks were performed.
For the year, 19,592,303 background checks carried out for firearm purchases-a 19 percent rise from 2011.
Each check doesn’t represent a single gun, just a single background check transaction.
NICS has access to information from computers at the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, searching records that would prohibit a buyer from owning a gun, such as being a fugitive, having a felony conviction or charge, renouncing U.S. citizenship, or having been determined as mentally impaired. NICS was mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and set up in November 1998.
Since the NICS system was established in November 1998 a total of 160,474,702 background checks were made. Of these, around .006 percent of those attempted purchases were denied and .00008% (fewer than a hundred people a year) were prosecuted for lying on the form.
The monthly totals since 1998 can be viewed here.