In just the first two months of 2013, firearm background checks have jumped 54 percent from the same period last year. In the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy and the current gun control debate, firearms are still selling at a record pace and the Department of Justice is adjusting for the traffic.

According to the Associated Press, The Justice Department will spend more than $20 million on bolstering the current background check system. The funds will be going towards improving data reporting in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) so that background checks have a better ability to weed out applicants with mental health issues, felony convictions and domestic violence offenses.

This announcement by the Department comes at a time when more and more people have begun purchasing firearms. The Washington Times reports that last December and January were the highest and second highest recorded months, respectively, for application checks. While this trend is commonplace in all 50 states, Delaware, Alaska, Utah, and New Hampshire have led the pack with the highest rates so far.

Congress is currently debating the need for an expanded background check system that will apply also to private sales in addition to federally licensed dealers. This move is supported by gun control advocates as a step towards keeping guns away from potentially dangerous users. Others, like the National Rifle Association, believe that a universal background check would hinder law abiding gun purchasers and dealers, in addition to laying the groundwork for a gun registry.

Individual gun stores owners have their own say. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a trade association for the firearms industry, reveals that an online survey of 640 federally licensed retailers shows that dealers are heavily concerned with the expansion, and they’re not happy about it. In the survey  85.7 percent of retailers opposed the idea while 95.7 percent voiced that such expansions would not prevent firearms from falling into criminal hands.

“The concept of universal background checks sounds appealing on the surface, but the details involved in what actually would be required on the part of firearms retailers to make it work are quite another matter,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president. “In fact, the obligations and burdens that would be put in place could be overwhelming for many of those who would be called upon to carry them out. It is unfair to call upon private companies, many of them quite small and with limited personnel, to conduct what essentially would be a function of government.”

Image from Peter Anderson (peteSwede) on the flickr Creative Commons

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