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A customer purchasing an AR-15 in Orem, Utah, in March 2021. Photo: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The FBI conducted 4,691,738 background checks for firearm sales this March, a single-month record for the U.S.

Why it matters: The surge in background checks may be a result of gun control bills recently passed by the House and gun restriction recommendations by President Biden in the wake of three mass shootings in March.

Context: Last month, the House passed a bill that would require background checks for all gun purchasers.

  • Congress passed another bill aimed at closing a loophole that allows firearm dealers to complete sales after three days if a buyer's background check has not been finished by the FBI.
  • Biden urged the Senate to pass the two House bills and called on Congress as a whole to renew bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

By the numbers: Of the top 10 days for most background checks in the country's history, six were in March 2021, according to FBI data.

  • The FBI performed 236,295 background checks on March 17 alone — the busiest day for checks in U.S. history.

The big picture: A gunman killed four people, including a 9-year-old boy, in Orange, California, on March 31.

Go deeper

Orange shooting suspect charged with 4 counts of murder

Orange Police Chief Dan Adams posts a picture of Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez during a press conference on April 1.

The suspected gunman who killed four people — including a 9-year-old boy — at a business complex in Orange, California, on Wednesday was charged with four felony counts of murder, prosecutors announced Friday.

Driving the news: Prosecutors said the suspect, Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez, who was also wounded during the shooting, knew all of the adult victims through personal or business relationships.

Car prices rise as chip shortage hits dealer showrooms

Ford F-150 pickup trucks for sale at a dealership in Colma, Calif. (Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Carmakers saw gangbuster sales in March, boosted by consumers' $1,400 stimulus checks, but analysts warned of volatility ahead as production troubles mount.

Why it matters: Car prices are rising because of inventory shortages, and as the spring selling season begins and consumer sentiment improves, it could be harder for shoppers to find the vehicle they want at an affordable price.

Driving the news: Automakers reported strong demand in March, and forecasters say they expect overall first-quarter sales to rise about 8 percent over a pandemic-wracked early 2020, Automotive News reported.

  • Toyota, Honda, Kia and Hyundai were among those reporting strong sales in March.
  • "The first quarter ended strong, setting the market up for an incredible spring from a demand perspective," said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at Cox Automotive.
  • Stimulus payments, tax refunds, vaccination progress and warmer weather are all helping to boost consumer sentiment, he said.
  • "All those things are coming together right now, and the industry would likely be setting all-time sales records if it were not for tight supplies and elevated prices."

What's happening: After two months of factory shutdowns early in the pandemic, the industry is now getting hit with shortages of key components, notably computer chips that power vehicle electronics.

  • The chip shortage has snowballed into a bigger crisis, with multiple factories temporarily closed, said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ executive director of insights.
  • "We’re seeing the industry being hit hard on both sides: Retail customers are being offered fewer choices and paying higher prices, while fleet customers are likely seeing their orders delayed."

By the numbers: New vehicle inventory on sale at dealerships is down by 36% in March 2021 compared with a year ago, according to Edmunds.

  • The average transaction price for new vehicles in March was estimated to be $40,563, versus $38,601 a year ago.
  • Used vehicles sold for an estimated $22,663, on average, up from $20,273 last year.

Trucks and SUVs have been hit the hardest. Although their high profit margins have been a bright spot for automakers during the pandemic, supplies are running low because of the chip shortage.

  • Truck inventory was down by 60% in March compared to a year ago, per Edmunds.
  • The average transaction price for a new full-size pickup is estimated at $54,763 compared to $51,164 a year ago.

The bottom line: It's a basic issue of supply and demand.

Rahm Emanuel questioned on murder of Laquan McDonald in confirmation hearing

Rahm Emanuel during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Oct. 20. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke about the murder of Laquan McDonald during his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday to become the U.S. ambassador to Japan, saying that "there's not a day or a week that has gone by in the last seven years I haven't thought about this."

Catch up quick: McDonald was a Black teenager who was fatally shot 16 times by Chicago police during Emanuel's tenure as the city's mayor. The 2014 shooting triggered massive protests, both because of its nature and the fact that the officers' body-cam footage was concealed for years.