Many attributed the surge to Obama, whom the gun lobby predicted would be the most anti-gun president in American history.
After the Colorado shooting, during the final months of the presidential campaign, Obama spoke out against assault-style weapons but did not push for new gun laws. Just days after the Connecticut shootings, Obama said new gun laws would be a top priority.
"Gun owners are scared," said Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a Colorado group that promotes gun rights.
People in the business are calling this rush to buy guns after the Newton shooting a "banic," meaning people are panicked that Obama would ban guns, said Bill Bernstein, owner of the East Side Gun Shop in Nashville, Tenn.
Tennessee saw among the highest increase in gun checks at the end of last year, with 91,922 background checks in December, up from 59,840 in November. Bernstein said sales after the Connecticut shooting "went on steroids."
Gregory Johnson, of Molalla, Ore., said he and his wife aren't afraid of Obama taking away their guns. He said they are signed up to take a required class to get a concealed license permit because they want to make sure they can protect themselves in a situation like the Dec. 11 shooting spree at an Oregon mall where a gunman killed two people before killing himself. Johnson was shopping in a Milwaukie, Ore., gun store Friday, looking for a small gun his wife could carry in her new job that will have her driving at times alone at night.
"I'm not expecting her to carry, but at least she has the option if she needs it, or at least have something available to her in her vehicle," Johnson said. "That's my priority, my wife's security."
Outside New Orleans, the manager of Gretna Gun Works, Jason Gregory, said surging sales were no cause for celebration. In Louisiana, background checks increased from 38,584 in November to 59,697 in December. Gregory said sales more than doubled in his store, spurred by politicians calling for tougher gun laws.
"They're causing such fear among the people," he said. "It's not the way the market should be working."
Associated Press writers Thomas Peipert in Denver, John Christoffersen in Newtown, Connecticut, Steve DuBois in Milwaukie, Oregon, Mike Kunzelman in New Orleans, Bob Johnson in Montgomery, Alabama; Joseph Pisani in New York and Travis Loller in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.