Colorado ended 2020 with 501,324 background checks processed for firearms purchases, an approximately 26% increase over 2013, which held the previous annual record for background checks.
“If I were to tell you at the beginning of 2020 that we would end 2020 like this you would have thought I was insane,” said Mark Oliva, a spokesperson for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, according to the News-Times in Connecticut. “And what we know from December is that if there had been more inventory, sales would have been even higher.”
Because there is no national database cataloging guns purchased, background checks serve as a proxy for gun buys. Newsweek reports that the nationwide 34% increase in background checks between December 2019 and December 2020 likely had roots in President Donald Trump’s election loss. Gun purchases tend to rise with the perceived threat of new gun safety controls, researchers have found.
In November 2020, there were 45,642 background checks performed in Colorado, compared with just under 30,000 12 months prior. However, it was not the busiest month of the year: March saw in excess of 52,000 background checks.
The first month of the pandemic still had a smaller spike than December 2012, the month after President Barack Obama’s reelection and when a gunman murdered 26 elementary school students and staff in Newtown, Conn. That month in Colorado, background checks totaled 57,878.
Colorado also experienced a 2.84% denial rate in 2020, which signifies a purchaser’s inability to own a weapon. The rate was higher than in each of the five prior years.