Gun sales set record ahead of California bullet button ban

California had more gun background checks in December than any other month on record for the state, in a month where gun store owners reported a flurry of sales ahead of the so-called bullet button ban that took effect the first of the year.

The Golden State had 298,161 background checks in December, second only to Kentucky, which averaged more than 300,000 checks each month in 2016, and consistently has the most checks of any other state, according to federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System data.

December’s nearly 300,000 checks marked a 33 percent increase from the month before, when there were 224,039 background checks in California.

The uptick comes as no surprise. By mid-December, gun store owners reported a doubling of long gun sales since Gov. Jerry Brown signed new gun control measures into law in July. The bullet button ban took effect Sunday and prevents the sale of semi-auto rifles with magazines that can be removed by depressing a button with a bullet, itself a work-around from previous California gun laws that sought to regulate such weapons.

While background checks are not an exact measure of gun sales, they represent a barometer for the industry. In October, there were 54,333 background checks for long guns in California, according to the federal figures. Two months later, that figure jumped 72 percent to 93,224 long gun checks.

In the “other” category of the federal data, which “refers to frames, receivers and other firearms,” there were more than 19,000 checks in October, 30,000 in November, and by December, there were 77,929 background checks for frames, receivers and other such items.

The receiver portion of the semi-auto firearms is where the bullet buttons are located and is subject to the new law. Under the ban, Californians can own such weapons if they were purchased before Jan. 1, and if they register the firearm with the state.

“It’s like (Lieutenant Gov.) Gavin Newsom, (Calif. State Senate Leader) Kevin de León and (Gov.) Jerry Brown are the biggest marketing and sales guys for AR-15 and AK-47-style rifles in the state of California,” Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California told the LA Times last month. “Because of their actions, people are buying them any way they can.”