U.S. gun sales hit a new high in 2013, following the Colorado theater shooting and Newtown school massacre.

More than 21 million applications were run through the national background check system last year -- an eight percent increase over 2012.

John Hudak at the Brookings Institute says fear was the driving force, but that fear was two-fold.

“On one side people felt that having a firearm was an effective means of protection,” Hudak tells KTRH News.  “But also there were people who felt the government was going to step in and start rounding up the guns.”

Despite the rhetoric between liberals and conservatives, Hudak believes politics was not really an issue.

“These are individual decisions by individual people who are saying I want a gun, I need a gun, I have to have one for whatever reason, whether they want it for sport, for protection or other reasons,” he says.

“I don't think there was necessarily a political statement overall, though I do think some people may have been making a statement individually,” says Hudak.

The same may not be true near Austin, where Travis County officials recently pushed for background checks on all firearm sales during an annual gun show.  Neither side caved, so the show was canceled.

Critics argue the move was motivated purely by politics.