Gun Background Checks In The U.S., 1999-2009

Background checks skyrocketed to their highest levels in a decade during the last quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009.*

Federally licensed gun dealers call in or electronically submit information to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, to determine whether a prospective buyer has a criminal record and any outstanding warrants. The check also searches for additional criteria including whether a judge has declared someone to be mentally incompetent.

Total NICS background checks, by quarter (in millions)

[Chart: NCIS background checks, by quarter, Q1 1999 to Q1 2009]

* Background checks are not a direct indicator of firearm sales. That's because with one background check an individual can purchase more than one firearm. But the FBI's figures provide the best estimate of gun sales nationwide.

Source: FBI

Credits: Robert Benincasa, Joshua Brockman and Alyson Hurt / NPR

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