JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Guns are selling at unprecedented levels this summer, which means 2016 is well on its way to breaking the all-time record for background checks.
Background checks conducted by the FBI totaled 1,853,815 in August 2016 -- a 6 percent increase from August 2015.
That's the most checks ever in the month of August since the FBI started conducting background checks in 1998. In fact, every monthly tally this year has hit an all-time high, meaning that 2016 is on track to be the record year for background checks and, by proxy, gun sales.
Background checks don't correlate directly to gun sales, but do serve as an important indicator for them, since there are no industry sales figures.
Eric Friday, lead counsel for Florida Carry, said the numbers weren't a surprise to him.
"I take away from that there are a lot of people who decided that people want to exercise their right to bear arms and a lot of them are new gun owners," Friday said.
Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger, the two publicly traded gun companies, recently reported a double-digit jump in sales. Smith & Wesson said quarterly sales soared 40 percent, while Ruger said sales jumped 19 percent.
Friday, who supports pro-gun rights policies, said the reports should send a message to lawmakers.
"I think they should take away the fact that those gun owners vote. Those gun owners vote consistently for pro-gun candidates. And If they don't understand the number coming out of the background check, they might care about the numbers coming out of the ballot box," Friday said.
Mass shootings in the last several years have helped drive gun sales. Gun buyers worry that every mass shooting will prompt more restrictive gun control laws, and that's been the case in such states as Connecticut, Colorado and Virginia.
The political rhetoric of the 2016 presidential campaign has taken center stage in the gun industry. Ruger CEO Michael Fifer said recently that Hillary Clinton was "actively campaigning against the lawful commerce in arms."
Clinton, if elected president, plans to expand background checks, restrict "military-style assault weapons," and hold gun dealers and manufacturers accountable for gun violence. She wants to repeal a law protecting the gun industry from lawsuits related to the misuse of guns.
Every time a gun is purchased from a federally licensed gun dealer, the dealer submits the buyer's personal information to the FBI, which runs it through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. If the check reveals that the buyer is a felon, or has other criminal history red flags, such as domestic violence or drug use, then he or she is denied the gun.
But most buyers pass the background check.
"People that are on the FBI watch list, or the Joint Terrorism Task Force watch list, any of these lists where you may have potential terrorists on them, that once they've come off of these lists, then these people can go ahead and purchase weapons. I know there's been a push to include people who are not on the list, but were once on the list, to do a further investigation of these people if they want to purchase a weapon," said Gil Smith, News4Jax crime and safety analyst.
Friday, who represents Florida Carry, which is similar to the National Rifle Association but specific to the state of Florida, said they oppose restricting gun rights to anyone who's been on a terror watch list because he referred to such lists as "secret government lists," saying they believe that someone who's been adjudicated guilty of the crime should be the only person to lose their right to a firearm.