The shooting deaths of 20 schoolchildren and six of their faculty at Sandy Hook Elementary School have prompted the governor and Connecticut legislature to seek ways to reduce gun violence. This is one of an ongoing series to inform that effort.

Connecticut’s people have a lot of guns…

…And are acquiring more at an ever-increasing pace.

Over the last six years, records show, Connecticut authorities have approved the purchase of more than 613,018 handguns, shotguns and rifles; and sales are accelerating each year.

Last year, for example, the state authorized the purchase of nearly 124,000 guns — more than twice the number purchased six years ago.

In fact, the number of authorized gun sales has increased year-over-year for the past six years, and jumped almost 24 percent from 2011 to 2012, state data show.

Here are some other gun-purchase statistics from data collected by the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection:

  • After background checks, the state has refused to approve the sale of 952 guns in the past six years. That’s about 0.18 percent of the approved sales. This rejection rate has remained fairly constant at less than a quarter of a percent.
  • In each of the last six years, the number of handguns authorized for sale has exceeded the number of long guns.
  • The number of handguns sold in 2012 is more than twice the number sold in 2006.
  • The number of handguns sold has increased each year — by nearly 21 percent in 2009 and as little as 5 percent in 2011 .
  • Handgun sales jumped more than 22 percent in 2012, but the growth in long gun sales was greater, at more than 26 percent.
  • Last year, 61 percent of the approved gun sales were for handguns, while 39 percent were of long guns. This balance has remained relatively constant over the past six years.

This data from the public protection office, a division of the state police, includes all legal sales that required a background check and issuance of a state authorization number for each firearm.

The data does not necessarily include the sale of long guns between private owners, since those sales do not require a background check, though the state recommends it.

There are, obviously, no comprehensive data on the number of guns that change hands illegally each year, but one expert says it is probably safe to assume that there is an illegal gun for every legally purchased one.

The reason for last year’s surge in gun purchases is unclear, but Albert DiChiara, a criminologist and director of the criminal justice program at the University of Hartford, says one reason might be the political climate.

The uptick in purchases “could be related to concerns of stricter gun laws,” he said. “We do see a liberal trend in this country. The Obama coalition, I think, is moving us in a left direction” and toward more stringent gun control.

The graphic below provides year-by-year data from the last six years on legal handgun and long gun sales authorized by the state.

Use the radio button at the top of the chart to change categories. Mousing over each bar will produce the data for that year.

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