Guns
© Reuters / Eduardo Munoz
Guns for sale are seen inside of Dick's Sporting Goods store in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
The FBI carried out a record 28 million background checks on firearms purchases in 2019, as Americans rushed to buy weapons amid calls for tougher gun laws.

According to FBI data, 28,369,750 background checks were performed in 2019, smashing the previous record of 27 million in 2016. The agency ran 202,465 checks on Black Friday alone. The Christmas period was a festive one for firearms retailers, with just under three million checks carried out in December, the second-highest month since the National Instant Criminal Background Check System began in 1998.

The number of background checks performed does not directly correlate with weapons sales, the FBI cautioned. Some states, for example, carry out checks for concealed-carry permits, for example, and the figures don't account for multiple weapons purchased at once. Nevertheless, it is the most reliable indicator of nationwide gun sales that exists.

Firearms sales typically spike when gun owners feel like their Second Amendment rights are threatened. Though President Trump has been a vocal proponent of gun rights, his opponents spent 2019 pushing the opposite message.

Every Democratic candidate for next year's election has promised to restrict gun rights in some manner, with Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke proposing a mass confiscation of AR- and AK-style rifles in September, shortly before dropping out of the race.

O'Rourke's fellow Democrats, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, then announced that they too would introduce their own mandatory buyback schemes. The following month saw the third-highest number of checks in the whole year.

Americans are choosing to invest their hard-earned dollars in their ability to exercise their rights and buy the firearms they want before gun control politicians attempt to regulate away that ability," a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation told the Associated Press in December.

Though violent crime has decreased by more than 50 percent since the early 1990s, mass shootings continue to make gun control a headline issue in the US. Last year saw a number of high-profile slayings, including two shootings in Texas in August that left 30 people dead, a massacre in Virginia Beach that killed 13, and a bloodbath at a nightclub in Dayton, Ohio, that killed nine.