2020 saw record firearm sales month after month as protests, riots, a chaotic political environment and a pandemic lockdown affected every American. If anyone thought things were going to settle down in 2021, they are sorely mistaken.
Based on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), firearm sales during the first half of 2021 surged 15% over the first six months of 2020. A total of 22,243,220 background checks were completed from January 1 through June 30th, making it the largest number for the period since the FBI began recording sales over two decades ago in late 1998.
The steep run-up in sales is a continuation of a nationwide trend that began in 2020, a year that saw sales rise 40% to a record high of 39,695,315. While not a perfect reflection of actual sales, the FBI numbers are widely used to gauge the number of gun sales based on historical facts. The number of background checks are reported each month by state. Since 1998, over 340 million checks have been processed, with only 2 million denials. Putting it another way, only 1 in every 170 applicants is denied, usually because of prior criminal records. This track record makes it the most readily available, comprehensive, and reliable indicator of actual sales.
Although the New York Times makes the case that gun buying spurred by the pandemic is mostly over now, current gun owners are continuing to purchase additional firearms. More importantly, the trend of first-time purchasers that were largely comprised of minorities and women appears to be continuing.
Another trend that has been identified among first time buyers, according to National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), is that of semi-automatic handguns being the most popular purchase at a rate of 2 to 1 over the second most popular firearm, shotguns.
While the sheer number of guns purchased recently has been impressive, it is part of a general overall trend that has been steadily increasing with somewhat of a noticeable snowball effect over the past two decades. In 1999, sales were just over 9 million. Seven years later in 2006 it was up by a million to over ten. The next five years saw a 50% increase to 15 million in 2011. Then in two years an increase to 20 million in 2013, and three years later up to 25 million in 2016. The snowball really rolled through 2020 reaching 40 million, with no signs of slowing down in 2021.
Illinois is leading sales so far this year at 6,050,704, with only 4% of the U.S. population accounting for 27% of gun sales for the period. Kentucky claims second place at 1,651,442, with only 1.3% of the country’s citizens buying over 7% of guns sold in the country.
As for the states (and district) that are widely considered as unfriendly to firearms and their owners, the numbers for the period are somewhat surprising: District of Columbia (D.C.) -5,825; Hawaii – 8,626; Rhode Island – 22,853; New Jersey – 135,591; Massachusetts – 142,631; Maryland – 151,424; Connecticut – 163,741; New York – 245,023; and with over three-quarters of a million sales in just six months, California at 769,591.
The numbers paint a pretty clear picture. Americans of all races, religions, socioeconomic classes and political affiliations are exercising their Constitutional right to own firearms, and it should be sending a resounding message to those individuals, organizations and political bodies that wish or attempt to infringe upon that right in any way.
You may click here for the complete summary of NICS records from November 1998 through June 30, 2021.