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FBI firearm background checks set another all-time record in June

People stand in line outside the Martin B. Retting, Inc. guns store on March 15, 2020 in Culver City, California. More and more Americans appear to be arming themselves following fears over the deadly coronavirus pandemic and images of racial justice riots. By Josh Campbell

(CNN) -- More and more Americans appear to be arming themselves following a month of continued fears over the deadly coronavirus pandemic and images of some rioters causing damage after hijacking peaceful protests demanding racial justice.

The FBI conducted more than 3.9 million background checks associated with the sale, transfer or permitting of firearms in June, making it the highest month on record for background checks since the bureau began keeping statistics in 1998, according to new data released on Wednesday by the agency.

By comparison, the bureau conducted 2.3 million checks in June 2019. The figures released for June 2020 also eclipse the previous record set in March 2020, when the bureau conducted 3.7 million checks.

The states with the highest number of background checks conducted were Illinois, Kentucky, Texas, Florida and California.

Under US law, federally licensed gun dealers must run checks on every buyer, whether a purchase is made in a store or at a gun show. A buyer presents his or her identification to the seller, fills out a form from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives -- which lists the buyer's age, address, race, and any criminal history -- and then the seller submits the information to the FBI for checks against databases in order to ensure a criminal record does not preclude the purchase.

As CNN has previously reported, the recent surge in firearm background checks since the beginning of the year largely coincides with the deadly coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide and various stay-at-home orders issued by federal, state and municipal governments.

In the month of June, the country also witnessed incidents of rioting following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, as individuals set fire to police facilities, destroyed buildings and looted commercial establishments.

While the overwhelming number of protests calling for racial justice after Floyd's death were peaceful, damage caused by rioters resulted in government officials around the country opting for a show of force by law enforcement, and, in some instances, calling up members of the National Guard to patrol American streets.

It is not uncommon for high numbers of FBI firearm background checks to follow incidents of national tragedy. In 2012, federal law enforcement noted a 39% spike in firearm transfer background checks during the month of the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, as compared to the previous month. The FBI similarly saw a 48% surge in background checks in the month of the 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, when compared to the previous month.

Following the record-setting figures in March, an official from the National Rifle Association -- one of the nation's largest gun-rights organizations -- said concerns about personal safety during the coronavirus pandemic are likely key drivers in the surge of FBI background checks.

"Firearm sales go up in times of uncertainty because Americans know their safety is ultimately in their own hands," said NRA spokesperson Amy Hunter in a statement to CNN.

Those calling for greater gun control disagree.

"It is understandable that many Americans are fearful and seeking security in the time of the Covid pandemic," Kris Brown, president of the Brady gun violence prevention organization previously told CNN. "However, we know that the rhetoric put forth by the NRA and the gun industry, that the purchase of a gun is a risk-free means to secure safety, is untrue and leads to tragic results every single day."

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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