FBI background checks, the most reliable measure of gun sales, surged in December, capping a year that experienced strong growth in the last three months.
Background checks totaled more than 2.3 million in December, according to the FBI, compared to about 2 million in the same period in 2013.
While sales increased nationwide, there were sporadic reports of a spurt in people buying guns after local incidents of violence.
Gun shop owners in the St. Louis area, for instance,reported a spike in sales in the days following protests and rallies after a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri in August.
There was another wave of protests and riots in November after a grand jury declined to indict the officer, and gun shop owners again reported a spike in sales.
Background checks totaled more than 1.5 million in August, a considerable increase from about 1.4 million in the prior month.
There was another pick up in October, to 1.6 million, and in November, to 1.8 million.
The December tally of 2.3 million, was bolstered in part by a strong holiday gun shopping season and a record Black Friday, when there was 175,000 background checks just on that one day.