9 Investigates: Background checks for gun purchases skyrocket in Florida



LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - On the same day that two U.S. senators announced a compromise that would expand gun buyer background checks, 9 Investigates has found that the number of people buying guns in Florida has skyrocketed over the past few months.

For T.J. Byrnes, of Golden Triangle Guns in Tavares, simply keeping his store shelves stocked has been nearly a full-time job since December.

"From this time last year to now, I saw we're easily doing double the amount of business," said Byrnes.

He said his customers include many first-time owners, who are seeking firearms of all types. Florida does not register guns, so background checks on buyers are the best indicator of purchasing volume.

9 Investigates' new data shows that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement performed 294,185 background checks during the first three months of this year. That number is about 36 percent higher -- or about 105,000 more background checks -- than the same period one year earlier.

The spike began in December, the month of the Newtown school shooting renewed gun control talk.

"There's a lot with the mentality. If you tell me I'm not going to be able to have it, it's definitely something I want to have now," said Byrnes.

Now, 9 Investigates has calculated that the number of would-be buyers turned down based on their background checks is miniscule. FDLE said just 10,185 of the 797,610 background checks last year resulted in "non-approvals."

Those non-approvals are based on factors like a person's criminal history, substance abuse problems or citizenship status.

Critics of the so-called "gun show loophole" have worried those denied applicants could simply purchase from a private seller instead. But the Senate proposal announced Wednesday would require background checks even for people who buy privately, at gun shows or online.