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Gun checks top two million for fourth-straight month

By Carol Cratty, CNN Senior Producer

March 4, 2013 -- Updated 2049 GMT (0449 HKT)
FBI background checks on gun sales have topped two million in each of the past four months
FBI background checks on gun sales have topped two million in each of the past four months
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • FBI background checks totaled more than 2.3 million in February
  • Checks hit record in December
  • Just over 1 percent of checks result in rejection so far this year
  • Check rate soars as Washington debates new gun control measures

Washington (CNN) -- FBI background checks on gun sales have now topped two million in each of the past four months, according to the latest figures made available on Monday.

Although the law enforcement agency does not offer public analysis of its figures, the high check rate occurs amid debate in Washington over new gun control measures mainly in response to December's school shooting in Connecticut.

The agency performed more than 2.3 million checks in February using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

'Universal background check:' What does it mean?

The numbers do not reveal how many guns were purchased because some buyers could have bought more than one.

The monthly record of 2.7 million occurred in December. January was the second-highest month at 2.4 million. Prior to November, the number of monthly FBI background checks had never exceeded 1.8 million.

As of Sunday, the number of checks so far this year that resulted in rejections totaled 20,004, or almost 1.3 percent, according to the FBI.

High numbers of background checks are usually seen during the holiday shopping months of November and December. There also is often a spike in checks after a dramatic incident of gun violence.

The numbers usually decline in January. But that hasn't happened this year.

President Barack Obama and some members of Congress continue to push for new legislation to stem gun violence.

They have been spurred by the massacre at Connecticut's Newtown Elementary School during which a lone gunman killed 26 people, mostly first graders.

One proposal under serious discussion at the federal level is to expand background checks to require them for all gun sales. This would close a loophole for private transactions, including sales involving hunters.

Many states have their own laws requiring checks for private sales.

The National Rifle Association is opposed to universal background checks. The politically potent group says the current system is flawed and does not contain sufficient data on problems like mental illness.

Complete coverage: The gun debate

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