Background checks on the sale of firearms reached record levels during the month of November, resulting in a historic spike in sales following the general election.

Firearms retailers across the country reported increased sales of many types of guns and accessories following the election of Barack Obama on November 4. Most attribute the spike to fears that an Obama White House and Democrat-controlled Congress will reinstate the so-called “assault weapons ban,” prohibiting the sale of certain firearms and high capacity magazines.Nics chart

Data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) indicated a 42 percent increase in November firearm purchaser background checks. A total of 1,529,635 checks–the highest monthly total ever–were reported for the month, up from 1,079,923 in November 2007.

Federal law requires FBI background checks on individuals purchasing firearms from federally licensed retailers.

It should be noted that here is no national data source that captures actual individual firearms sales by month.

Mirroring a nationwide trend, retail sales of firearms in the President-elect’s home state of Illinois also skyrocketed in the weeks since Election Day, reflecting a 38 percent increase over the same period in 2007. According to the Illinois State Police, 24,076 background checks were conducted in November 2008–up from 17,363 in November 2007 and 17,249 in November 2006.

Illinois gun dealers report that sales remained brisk throughout the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with many customers acquiring several firearms at a time along with sizeable quantities of ammunition.