In the 1983 movie A Christmas Story, nine year-old Ralphie Parker has but one item on his Christmas list: a Red Ryder BB gun, "with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time." But Ralphie's entreaties to those who might get him the toy weapon -- his parents, Santa Claus -- are all met with the disapproving refrain, "You'll shoot your eye out!"
Spoiler alert: Ralphie gets his gun, and nearly fulfills the dire prophecy of ocular loss.
Nearly 30 years later, A Christmas Story is a holiday TV staple. But Americans, heedless of the film's lesson, seem determined to follow in young Ralphie's footsteps: According to the FBI, background checks on gun buyers hit a record single-month figure -- more than 1.5 million -- in December. On the day before Christmas Eve alone, 102,222 such checks were ordered, making Dec. 23, 2011 the second-busiest day in gun-buying history, after this year's Black Friday.
In all, the six days leading up to Christmas saw 500,000 background check requests.
Most would-be gun-buyers pass their checks. According to CNN, "Only 1.3% of the searches result in people being denied permission to buy a weapon."
And there's no way of knowing how many guns have been sold this holiday season, since people often buy multiple weapons at once.
Fear of Gun Control Leads to Stockpiling
Caroline Brewer, of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, told CNN that repeat buyers probably account for most of the upswing: "The research we've seen indicates fewer and fewer people are owning more and more guns. All the trends indicate the number of Americans who own guns has declined."
Unlike the FBI, which declined to give an explanation for why so many Americans had guns on their Christmas lists, Brewer ventured a theory. "It would appear because of fear-mongering by the NRA since Obama's election that people are adding more guns to their arsenals out of fear Obama and the Democrats will take away their guns, which is absurd."
One gun shop owner -- Dave LaRue, of Legendary Guns in Phoenix -- offered at least partial support for Brewer's claims, without naming the NRA. "There are a lot of people concerned about pending gun legislation and the sense about the current administration," he told The Daily Telegraph. "People think future availability will be limited and there's a feeling of get it while you can."
The NRA had a different account, pointing to self-defense concerns caused by police force cutbacks, as well an increase in the popularity of sport shooting.
According to USA Today, one state that has seen a rise in gun sales is Ohio (where A Christmas Story was filmed). The Dayton Daily News reports that the chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, Jim Irvine, attributes this increase to "relaxed conceal-and-carry laws in Ohio, more women learning about guns and the pro-gun message resonating."
Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, lamented the incongruity between rampant gun purchases and his sense of the holiday spirit: "I'm bothered by, especially at the holiday time, how many people think that these things ought to be holiday gifts, Christmas gifts for their families and their children. We're seeing more of that, which means it's becoming sort of an accepted thing. Firearms and weapons don't seem to go with holiday and peacefulness to me. I think we have a problem."
Ralphie would disagree, but he was just a kid. Readers, what do you say?
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