Gun sales continue to increase sharply in the aftermath of Barack Obama's presidential election, a trend gun rights lobbies attribute to concerns over a potential new gun ban.
"Sales of firearms, in particular handguns and semi-automatic hunting and target rifles, are fast outpacing inventory," National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) president and CEO Stephen Sanetti said in a statement.
"It's clear that many people are concerned about possible gun bans under the incoming Congress and are reacting accordingly."
Firearm purchaser background checks, an indicator of actual sales, in December 2008 were up 24 per cent at 1.5 million from a year earlier (1.2 million), according to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
November 2008 saw a 42 per cent rise in NICS checks, the highest number of checks in the system's history. Federal law requires FBI background checks for all individuals purchasing firearms from federally licensed retailers.
Some 12.7 million background checks were reported in 2008, a 14 per cent increase from 2007. Individuals can also purchase arms without background checks at gun shows.
NSSF said demand for firearms was so high that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ran out of the forms required for any individual purchasing a firearm from a licensed retailer.
A recent survey of hunters and target shooters by statistics group Southwick Associates found that 80 per cent of respondents expected they would face more challenges in purchasing arms under the Obama administration and the new Congress, which has an increased Democratic majority.
In December, Obama sought to reassure gun owners.
"Lawful gun owners have nothing to fear," Obama said at a press conference. I believe in common-sense gun safety laws, and I believe in the second amendment," which grants individuals the right to bear arms, the scope of which has been the source of a long-running debate in the United States.
The National Rifle Association, a powerful gun-rights lobby, said in November that "the Obama administration is anti-firearms ownership and anti-second amendment."