Gun background checks drop by 10 percent in January

In this Jan. 16, 2013 photo, assault weapons and hand guns are seen for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply in Springfield, Ill. The FBI says the week following the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting massacre saw the greatest number of background checks for firearms sales and permits to carry guns conducted within a one-week period since 1998. The FBI says the second highest week was when President Barack Obama announced sweeping plans to curb gun violence. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

In this Jan. 16, 2013 photo, assault weapons and hand guns are seen for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply in Springfield, Ill. The FBI says the week following the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting massacre saw the greatest number of background checks for firearms sales and permits to carry guns conducted within a one-week period since 1998. The FBI says the second highest week was when President Barack Obama announced sweeping plans to curb gun violence. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

WASHINGTON — The number of federal background checks for firearm sales declined unexpectedly last month following a surge toward the end of the year as Washington considered new gun control measures.

An Associated Press analysis of new FBI data published early Tuesday shows the National Instant Criminal Background Check system processed more than 2.78 million checks in December. That was a 12-month peak following an upward trend through last fall. The number fell to 2.48 million in January, still greater than any other month last year.

The 10 percent drop between December and January comes amid a fierce national debate on gun control after the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi saw the largest declines in background checks from December to January, by about one-third.

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