December 2020 New Record for Background Checks, Gun Sales for Year

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U.S.A.-( 2020 is over. The year set records for every month and for total National Instant background Check System (NICS) background checks done in a year.

2020 almost certainly set a record for the number of new firearms owners.  New firearms owners are estimated at over 8 million, based on the NSSF figures of about 40% of firearms purchasers in 2020 have been new firearms owners. Precise records of new owners are not available, only estimates.

2020 firearms sales by type and month compared to 2019

In December, the number of NICS background checks was 3,937,066, an all-time record.  The number of firearms sold in December was about 1.90 million. It falls short of the number of firearms sold in December of 2015, which was about 2.22 million.

The total number of NICS background checks for 2020 was 39,695,315, about 40% greater than the record set in 2019. The number of firearms sold for all of 2020 was about 20.66 million, an all-time record. The number of firearms added to the private stock in 2019 was about 13.95 million. The highest previous record total was set in 2016, at 16.29 million.

The 2019 and 2016 numbers come from the final figures provided by the ATF. It will be about a year before the final production, sales, and import figures are released from the ATF for 2020.  They are expected to be close to the estimate calculated from the NICS checks.

NICS checks are done for things other than for firearm sales. For the last few years, checks for carry permits and carry permit rechecks have been more than those for firearm sales.

In 2020, that trend slowed and reversed, with gun sales taking a slightly larger percentage of the NICS checks.

Permit and permit rechecks took a smaller percentage of the total. A number of states restricted the issuance of permits during the Covid19 pandemic.

While the number of gun sales was large for December, they were not a record for December.  Demand for new firearms may have reached a temporary saturation. Some models are a little more available.

Some of the reduction of demand is because the production of ammunition is maxed out, yet demand has outstripped it. The shelves are mostly bare.

There is speculation fewer people are purchasing guns because ammunition is difficult to obtain and/or very expensive by historical standards.

The number of firearm sales has been driven by concern over increased controls and potential gun bans proposed by the Biden/Harris ticket. Those concerns will remain in place, given the almost certainty of a Biden presidency, after President Trump has stated he will transfer power peacefully on 20 January.

The total number of private firearms in the United States is now about 462 million, as calculated using the methods pioneered by Newton and Zimring, and extended by Gary Kleck in “Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America”.

The number is the cumulative addition of domestic manufacture plus imports minus exports.  It does not count guns shipped to the U.S. military.   The figures are rounded to the nearest million.

The number of people desiring guns and ammunition as a hedge against political uncertainty will remain high.

A Biden administration could reduce the demand by refusing to push for gun confiscation and gun registration. That seems unlikely.

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean Weingarten

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