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Gun Sales Soar in Black Friday Buying Spree

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Record gun sales on Black Friday briefly caused outages with the FBI’s National Instant Check System (NICS), the background check required for most gun sales in the United States. According to the FBI there were 154,873 record checks conducted on Black Friday -- a 20 percent increase from the previous year that caused two brief outages for the background check system.

“The NICS never actually went down,” said FBI spokesman Stephen Fischer. “The call centers experienced two short outages -- one of 14 minutes and one of 18 minutes. These outages were caused by exceptionally large call volume.”  

The NICS references FBI computers at the Bureau’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division for search records for prohibiting factors for owning a gun, such as being a fugitive, having a felony conviction or charge, renouncing U.S. citizenship or having been determined as mentally impaired. The NICS was mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and set up in November 1998.

According to FBI officials when West Coast gun dealers opened for business on Black Friday the system was briefly impacted and FBI officials decided to take call centers offline so systems could catch up with calls that were already in the queue.

Over the three days from Nov. 23 to Nov. 25 there were a total of 283,423 NICS checks, compared to 215,192 last year.

“We had several delays that didn’t clear till the following morning,” said Chuck Nesby the Chief Firearms Instructor at NOVA Firearms in Fall Church, Va. Nesby, in an interview with ABC News, said he had only three customers that had to wait. “It went relatively smooth actually.”

Nesby said that sales at his store had been busy all week, noting that gun owners following the presidential election are concerned about new gun control regulations. Nesby also cited a 15 percent increase in sales among women seeking guns for personal protection.  

During the Oct.16, 2012 presidential debate President Obama said he was open to seeking to reintroduce the assault weapons ban.

“Weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don't belong on our streets. And so what I'm trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced,” Obama said in the debate.  

“People are worried about gun control restrictions,” Nesby said.

According to the FBI, since 1998 there have been more than 155 million NICS checks.  Each check doesn’t represent a single gun, just a single background check transaction.

“NICS has a 99.92% availability rate over the past 12 months so system outages do not occur very often,” Fischer said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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