Push to crack down on guns has opposite effect, sales skyrocket

In President Obama's push to crack down on the abundance of firearms in America, proposed gun-control legislation may be having the opposite effect.

Updated FBI statistics show that background checks in the first three months of the year far outpace the number of checks in early 2012. The stats show that from January through March, gun owners went through 7 million background checks -- compared with just 4.8 million in the first three months of last year.

The spike in checks, coupled with mounting anecdotal claims that ammunition is hard to come by, comes amid concern by gun owners that new proposals at the state and federal level could limit access to firearms.

Though supporters of the legislation say that is not the case, the assurances haven't stopped what statistics suggest is a run on weapons. The purchases have picked up ever since Obama's election in 2008. Since 2009, there have been 71 million background checks logged in the federal system. The annual number has risen every year. The recorded checks only apply to sales from licensed dealers.

The most recent spike further adds to the underlying challenge facing lawmakers -- how do you regulate weapons when there are already 300 million of them, and rising, in circulation?

While some lawmakers have proposed clawing back currently owned assault-style weapons, most proposed assault-weapons bans only apply to future purchases. And at the federal level, the chance of such a ban passing has diminished greatly.

The Senate advanced the federal legislation Thursday morning, but the key plank of that pertains to expanding background checks. A provision to renew bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines was dropped from the main bill, though it will likely get a vote as an amendment.

The odds of the Senate advancing to an up-or-down vote on the legislation improved Wednesday after two conservative senators -- one Democrat, one Republican -- announced a proposed compromise on background checks meant to assuage gun owners' concerns. The plan would apply to background checks for gun shows and Internet sales but exempt certain transactions among family members and others.

Still, the National Rifle Association said the proposal went too far.

If a bill ultimately passes, it will only come after millions more firearms have been purchased. Ammunition, too, has been flying off the shelves at a rapid clip. The sales have been picking up for several months. While Obama's re-election and the push for gun control legislation have been blamed, others have pointed the finger at the Department of Homeland Security, which has drawn attention for looking to purchase up to 1.6 billion rounds over the next five years for its law enforcement divisions.