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Background Check System For Gun Purchases Maxes Out As Firearm Orders Continue To Surge In Colorado

First Posted: 12/27/12 EST Updated: 12/27/12 EST

A surge in background checks for firearm purchases in Colorado has caused the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's background check system to be overwhelmed leaving thousands of gun buyers in a long holding pattern.

The CBI's wait time on a background check generally takes minutes, but now the wait time is more than 100 hours. The Denver Post reports that the CBI wait clock tops out at 99 hours and 59 minutes, so CBI has been tracking the requests manually but that data is unavailable to gun dealers. That means it's anyone's guess how long potential gun buyers will have to wait to purchase a firearm in Colorado currently.

The news comes just days before the Tanner Gun Show, one of Denver's largest gun shows, comes to town this weekend. Ty Blount, co-owner of the gun show, told The Denver Post that to deal with the situation gun dealers will either mail the purchased gun to the customer or meet up with the customer at a later date when their background check has finally cleared.

Since the tragic Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, gun sales have been surging in Colorado and across the nation. Fox31 reports that the AR-15, a military-style assault weapon that was used in the Sandy Hook shooting as well as the Aurora shooting, is virtually sold out in Colorado gun shops.

The latest spike in background check requests came in the immediate 48-hour aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting when Colorado set yet another record for background check submittals to buy guns this year.

There have been several unusual spikes in gun sales in Colorado in 2012 alone. A large spike in gun sales took place immediately following the tragic Aurora movie theater shooting that left 12 dead and nearly 60 wounded. Just days after the shooting, background checks for people wanting to purchase firearms in the state jumped more than 41 percent. And another sales spike occurred following the Jessica Ridgeway tragedy, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations.

Then, on Black Friday, CBI set a new record in the state processing over 4,000 background checks on people purchasing firearms -- that's nearly 1,000 more checks than were run in 2011 when CBI set a single-day record of checking 3,031 gun buyers, according to 9News. So busy was the CBI that the flood of new applications crashed the system twice on Black Friday.

While the number of firearm applications does not correlate with the number of guns in the state -- since a buyer who has passed the background check can get multiple guns and the state does not track the number of firearm purchases -- as of November of this year, 279,149 firearm applications had been approved out of 285,424. That's over 33,000 more approvals since last year, not counting this month when background check submittals set the latest record.

Nationally, a gun sales bump happened close to Obama's election in 2008, and even though buyers' fears have since proven unfounded, Newser reports the fear of a crackdown on guns in Obama's second term has spiked demand once more -- and like clockwork, gun sales spiked following Obama's reelection in November.

"I should put Obama's picture on the wall up there," said an anonymous New Jersey gun salesman to CNBC. "I'd name him salesman of the month!"

But Obama may not be the only reason so many are now interested in packing heat. Analysts say a portion of the increase in sales is due to demographic shifts as well.

"The biggest new group of buyers now are senior citizens," explained Larry Hyatt, the owner of a North Carolina gun shop, to CNBC's Closing Bell. "Ten thousand baby boomers a day are turning 65. They can't run, they can't fight, they got to shoot."