The country’s gun buying surge that began with the coronavirus closures in March soared to new heights in June, with a record 3.9-million NICS checks performed. According to the FBI, there were a total of 3,931,607 background checks conducted last month, compared to 2,312,309 checks in June of 2019. This marks the third month in 2020 with more than 3,000,000 background checks, and the 3.9-million checks recorded is the highest number of background checks ever reported in a single month in the 20 year history of the NICS program.
Now, a note of caution; Not all of these checks were for firearm purchases. Some of the checks conducted were for concealed carry applications or FOID card licenses, and sales of multiple firearms will only result in one background check being performed. In other words, the NICS numbers aren’t a perfect snapshot of firearm sales, but they do provide a fairly decent proxy.
To provide a more accurate snapshot of how many of these NICS checks involve actual sales of firearms, the firm Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting separated out codes for things like concealed carry renewals from NICS codes for firearms transfers. The company estimates that there were 2,3͕87,524 firearms sold across the United States last month, including 1.5-million handgun sales (a whopping 177% increase compared to June of 2019) and 690,212 sales of long guns (a 114% increase from JUne of 2019).
The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates that in the first six months of 2020, as many as 2-million Americans purchased a firearm for the very first time. Those numbers are clearly growing as people take stock of the riots, unrest, and sharp rise in violent crime seen in many cities. Calls to defund or abolish police departments are also likely contributing to the continued surge in gun sales during what is normally the slowest months of the year for gun purchases.
The NSSF’s Mark Oliva says the new numbers are “representative of Americans from all walks of life who are taking action and taking responsibility for their rights and their safety.”
“These figures represent the highest June on record since the FBI began conducting instant background checks more than 20 years ago. The sharp in increase in Americans buying firearms in June continues a trend we saw start in the spring. Civil unrest, rioting, looting and calls to defund police are unquestionably motivating factors of why this trend is increasing. Americans are right to be concerned for their personal safety. It’s entirely reasonable that law-abiding citizens are exercising their Constitutional right to purchase a firearm to protect themselves. Our nation’s elected representatives should take heed of where their constituents are on gun ownership today. Politicians who entertain notions of defunding police departments are the same ones who call for strict gun control and even outright confiscation. These figures aren’t push polls. They are representative of Americans from all walks of life who are taking action and taking responsibility for their rights and their safety.”
Typically gun sales start to decline in the summer months before picking back up in the fall. From May to June of 2019, for instance, the number of NICS checks fell by by about 30,000. In 2020, NICS checks increased by almost 900,000. July is generally the calendar month that sees the fewest number of NICS checks performed, but something tells me that won’t be the case this year. In January of 2020 there were 2.7-million NICS checks conducted, and at the moment it seems likely that will be the low-water mark for the year.
At this point, the only thing that’s likely to bring down the number of guns sold is availability. Over at the Washington Free Beacon, Stephen Gutowski has reaction from several gun store owners who say that their stock is disappearing much faster than they’re getting resupplied by distributors.
“Obama was the best gun sales in the country they claimed,” Brandon Wexler, owner of Wex Gunworks in Delray Beach, Fla., told the Washington Free Beacon. “No, Covid19 is.”
He said sales picked up in March and have continued strong since then, with new spikes appearing over the last month.
“Pretty much everything is out of stock,” he said. “We have been doing it since the late ’70s and have never seen literally no supply available. As of last week, at all major distributors you could not get any guns. Everything was literally sold out. Can’t even get hearing protection.”
Ammunition is just as hard to find as firearms are in many locations. I was talking to a buddy of mine who works at the local gun store here in Farmville, Virginia, and last week one of their ammo shipments consisted of a single box of 9mm ammunition. Not a case, just a box. If the NICS background check numbers go down in July, it will be because of a lack of supply and not a lack of demand.