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Customers line up Jan. 16 to buy guns at Duke's Sport Shop in New Castle, Pa. / Keith Srakocic, AP

Firearm background checks dipped in January amid tight supplies of guns after a buying surge followed the Connecticut school massacre in December and lawmakers' subsequent attempts to ban some weapons, according to FBI figures released Tuesday.

Last month, 2,495,440 reviews of gun sales and permits to carry were conducted under the National Instant Criminal Background Checks, which began in 1998. That's a 10% dip from the 2,783,765 checks conducted in December, the FBI numbers show.

The Associated Press found steeper declines in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The biggest drops - nearly 33% - came in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, which had registered some of the biggest increases in November when President Obama was re-elected.

The FBI set a one-week record after the killings of 20 students and six educators Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The week after, Obama and lawmakers proposed expanding checks and banning military-style semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines.

Background checks, which were mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, are initiated by licensed dealers. Because of varying state laws and purchase possibilities, they do not correlate directly to firearm sales, which the federal government does not track. Checks are not required for weapons sold by private parties or at gun shows.

The FBI says checks typically take about 30 seconds, but dealers reported delays because of the buying spree.

Nearly 19.6 million check were conducted in 2012. More than 100 million checks have been made in the past decade, resulting in more than 700,000 denials, including 8,980 in January, the FBI says.

Since the program began, nearly 163 million checks have been conducted.

Guns sales normally drop after Christmas, but this year's post-holiday decline is the smallest since background checks began. Demand for guns and ammunition has outstripped the supply, and many dealers say they can't get their hands on enough of either.

"Availability has been an issue. You're just not able to sell as much," Katie Stulce, who owns Champion Firearms in College Station, Texas, told the Associated Press. "We're probably turning away 60% of the people coming in wanting to buy something."

MLive reports "unprecedented demand" for guns and ammunition in Western Michigan:

Glocks, Rugers, Smith & Wesson's, and assault-style rifles disappear from gun counters as fast as distributors can supply them. Popular ammunition - 9 mm, .380 auto, .45 auto, .22 long-rifle and .223 caliber rounds - is nearly impossible to find.

One store owner said buyers were coming in out of "political fear" or "a love for shooting sport."

Last week, Walmart, the largest seller of guns and ammunition in the country, confirmed it was limiting ammo sales to three boxes a day per customer. The rationing began Jan. 24. A Walmart spokeswoman said the company was working with suppliers "to get shelves stocked."

In other gun-related developments Tuesday:

  • In Chicago, the Cook County Commission tightened regulations in a bid to curb the resale of legally bought firearms to criminals through so-called straw purchases. Under the new rules, which will take effect in August, gun owners have 48 hours to report to the sheriff the make, model and serial number of lost, stolen, sold, transferred or destroyed firearms. The sheriff can then share the information with other law enforcement agencies.
  • California lawmakers introduced a proposal that would require gun owners to buy liability insurance - similar to auto policies - to pay for injuries or damage caused by their weapons. "Our goal is to make sure that those who own guns do so in the most responsible way possible," said Assembly member Jimmy Gomez of Los Angeles, one of two Democratic co-sponsors. "A liability insurance requirement will incentivize gun owners to take safety precautions ?? such as using a trigger lock, keeping their guns locked when not in use, and participating in a training course ?? in order to get a more affordable insurance policy."


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