Americans Bought More Than 21 Million New Guns in 2020, Up 60% Over 2019


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December gun sales — as measured by the NSSF’s adjusted NICS background check numbers — were 23% higher than the year-ago totals. That’s a nice (though probably inventory-restricted) jump over December 2019. But the big news is the number of guns sold in all of 2020.

Americans stocked up on firearms last year to the tune of over 21 million rifles, pistols and shotguns. That’s a whopping 60% increase of the number sold last year and proof positive that when it comes to defending themselves and their families, people across the country decided in 2020 that relying on local governments and law enforcement — especially given what they were seeing on their televisions — wasn’t a good idea.

The NSSF’s Mark Oliva had this to say about the results . . .

The fact that more than 21 million background checks were conducted for the sale of a firearm in 2020 shows just how much value the American public places in their God-given Second Amendment rights. This record year surpassed 2019’s totals by 60 percent and the previous record of 2016 by 34 percent. NSSF estimates that more than 8.4 million people legally purchased a firearm for the first time in 2020.

This occurred under the most challenging of circumstances. Law-abiding Americans demanded to exercise their right to lawfully purchase, keep and bear arms. Some governors, mayors and even Members of Congress actively stood in the way of that and didn’t relent until faced with court action. At the same time, workers in these firearm and ammunition factories, distributors, retailers and ranges made adjustments to keep their workforce safe and protected from infection while keeping pace with the demand of the American public. That’s a testament to the determination of the American worker that makes our freedoms possible.

It is arguable that background check figures could be higher, had inventory been fuller. Retail shelves are still sparse, telling us there is still a strong demand and that elevated levels of firearm sales could continue for some time. Pursuit of restrictions on gun rights or targeting of the firearm industry by the Biden administration will only signal that this will be an administration that won’t seek to support and protect American rights, but will cater to special interest groups that seek to disarm law-abiding Americans. Should that occur, I anticipate the growth of first-time gun buyers and overall firearm sales will be closer to what was seen in 2020 than in previous years.

How many of those 21 million more guns, let alone the 425 million already in civilian hands, do you think Americans will be willing to give up if the Biden administration decides to outlaw any of them?

Here’s the NSSF’s press release . . .

The December 2020 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 1,906,916 is an increase of 22.7 percent compared to the December 2019 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,553,965. For comparison, the unadjusted December 2020 FBI NICS figure 3,904,879 reflects a 34.7 percent increase from the unadjusted FBI NICS figure of 2,898,501 in December 2019.

The fourth quarter 2020 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 5,625,610 reflects an increase of 40.6 percent over the 4,001,455 figure for fourth quarter 2019.

The 2020 annual total of 21,083,643 is a 59.7 percent increase over the 2019 annual total of 13,199,172. The 2020 total is now the highest annual total on record, exceeding the previous record of 15,700,471 set in 2016 by 34.3 percent. NSSF estimates that in 2020, over 8.4 million people purchased a gun for the first time, based on retailer surveys.

Please note: Twenty-five states currently have at least one qualified alternative permit, which under the Brady Act allows the permit-holder, who has undergone a background check to obtain the permit, to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer without a separate additional background check for that transfer. The number of NICS checks in these states does not include these legal transfers based on qualifying permits and NSSF does not adjust for these transfers. Michigan had law changes that affected their Brady Law standing which removed qualifying alternate permits usage for firearm transactions. These changes went into effect March 3, 2020. NSSF-adjusted NICS for the state of Michigan in December 2020 were 124.7 percent higher than December 2019 which accounts for an additional 37,437 checks over the same time period.

The adjusted NICS data were derived by subtracting out NICS purpose code permit checks and permit rechecks used by states for CCW permit application checks as well as checks on active CCW permit databases. NSSF started subtracting permit rechecks in February 2016.

Though not a direct correlation to firearms sales, the NSSF-adjusted NICS data provide an additional picture of current market conditions. In addition to other purposes, NICS is used to check transactions for sales or transfers of new or used firearms.

It should be noted that these statistics represent the number of firearm background checks initiated through the NICS. They do not represent the number of firearms sold or sales dollars. Based on varying state laws, local market conditions and purchase scenarios, a one-to-one correlation cannot be made between a firearm background check and a firearm sale.

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