Day After CT School Shooting, N.H. Sets Record For Handgun Background Checks

Dec 19, 2012

If there was any question whether gun sales spiked in New Hampshire following the school shooting in Connecticut last week, State Police answered it Wednesday.

Sgt. Sean Haggerty said there 468 requests for background checks for handgun sales Saturday. Haggerty said that is by far the highest single-day number of requests in state history.

The figure from the day following the Newtown school massacre shattered the state’s previous high mark of 303 requests in a single day.

Haggerty, who works in the permits and licensing department, says the previous high was set on November 10 earlier this year. That was the first weekend following the re-election of President Barack Obama.

Before that, the high mark was 286 set on April 14 earlier this year. Haggerty said the bulk of those requests came during a gun show in Concord.

Requests for background checks are far and away higher this year than in 2011.

So far this year, there have been 41,041 requests. In 2011, there were 32,224, Haggerty said.

“Prior to 2012, these numbers were nowhere near where they are now,” Haggerty said.

Charles Putnam, a professor in the UNH justice studies program, says the spike in gun sales here isn’t surprising.

Putnam says it’s consistent with what has been seen after similar mass shootings in the country.

But Putnam cautions against speculating too quickly as to reasons behind the spike on Saturday.

“There are probably different reasons at work for different people. Those reasons might vary depending upon age and other social demographics. It’s probably too soon to know for sure exactly what’s driving that behavior specifically in the wake of this incident.” 

Haggerty said the surge in requests is presenting a challenge for his department.

“It does cause us problems. It does cause delays,” he said.

Ideally, Haggerty said the background checks can be done as quickly as five minutes, but with a higher volume, it can take longer.

State and federal law requires dealers to have a background check conducted before making a sale.

Haggerty estimated roughly 2 percent of sales are denied for various reasons, such as criminal history.

Haggerty says the data shows background checks for background checks are for handgun sales, not for the types of assault rifles used in the Newtown shooting.