By Amy Willis, Los Angeles12:45PM GMT 12 Jan 2012
As Americans rushed to arm themselves over the festive period, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report showed how 8,775 people had been killed in shooting incidents in 2010.
That number is expected to increase for 2011, according to Barry Krisberg, a criminologist at Berkley School of Law, University of California.
“Overall violent crime rates in the US are going down but comparatively, shootings and homicides are going up a little bit,” he said. “Last year we had both an increase in police officers shot and killed and also an uptake in citizens being shot and killed.”
America has quietly diluted its weapons laws over the last few years as a result of increased lobbying from pro-gun groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), he said.
As a result, guns are now allowed to be carried in churches in Texas and punters can carry a weapon into taverns in Colorado. Across America guns have become easier to purchase, Mr Krisberg said, evident by the record number of sales over Christmas.
“There is a pretty strange social movement that basically argues that the more guns carried by the more citizens the better,” Mr Krisberg said. “I know of no civilised country that would put up with the kind of unregulated gun licensing that is currently in the US.”
In the last three years, the NRA’s political arm, the NRA Political Victory Fund, has donated $1,846,040 to individual politicians and PACs. Last year, the lobby group donated $359,150, in 2010 it donated $1,031,490 and in 2009 it donated $455,400.
The association also spent thousands of dollars campaigning for and against specific candidates, presumably depending on their views on gun legislation.
Candidates who have received donations from the National Rifle Association include Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Newt Gingrich, Christine O’Donnell, Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, and hundreds of other congressmen and women.
While funding of this kind brings into question the motives behind some politicians' pro-gun stance, the immediate result has been a more liberal view on allowing citizens to bear arms. There is also an increased reluctance from politicians to challenge pro-gun regulation for fear of it affecting their election prospects, Mr Krisberg said.
“Almost every single Republican candidate for the presidency is supporting virtually unlimited gun sales and the current administration has been pretty quiet on gun regulation,” he said. “Most politicians are running from gun regulation as a major priority even though they supported it in the past. I think unfortunately we are moving towards an increased ease and availability of gun purchasing in the US.”
Decreased weapons legislation has led to the mentally ill or people with criminal convictions gaining easy access to guns, Mr Krisberg said.
A study in November by Mayors Against Illegal Guns claimed the details of mentally ill people were not being added to the National Instant Criminal Records Check (NICs) database due to a lack of communication between state agencies and the FBI.
"Millions of records identifying seriously mentally ill people and drug abusers as prohibited purchasers are missing from the federal background check database because of lax reporting by state agencies," the report said.
Two days before Christmas the FBI ran 102,222 background checks, on Black Friday it ran 129,166 searchs. Of that only around 1.3 per cent were denied, according to FBI spokesman Steve Fischer.
Earlier this month a deranged gunman shot dead a park ranger before killing himself in woodland.
Last year, gunman Jared Lee Loughner burst into a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona, and shot dead six people including a nine-year-old child. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords suffered a bullet wound to the brain but survived.
Barack Obama had been considered tightening gun laws in 2009 but legislation has yet to materialise.