The number of checks performed by the National Instant Check System declined a bit from the all-time record set last month, but only a bit. In fact, the FBI figures released today are the largest number of NICS checks performed in the month of April in the 20-year history of the instant background check system.
According to the FBI, there were 2,911,128 checks performed in April, compared to 3,740,688 checks performed in March. The previous high for the month of April was set in 2019, when 2,334,249 checks were conducted. In fact, April’s numbers were the fourth highest in NICS history, behind March of this year, December 2015, and December 2019.
Keep in mind, gun stores in New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Washington, the city of Los Angeles, and many Bay-area cities and counties in California were ordered closed during the month of April, and gun stores in most other states were subject to social distancing policies that limited the number of customers. Despite all that, the National Shooting Sports Foundation says that the NICS checks on gun sales were up 69-percent compared to April of 2019.
Not every background check that’s conducted by NICS is for the transfer of a firearm, so the NSSF looks at all of the checks and adjusts the figures to only represent checks performed on gun sales and transfers. According to the firearms industry trade group, there were 1,678,223 checks related to firearm transfers last month. That’s almost 1-million fewer than the roughly 2.5-million adjusted NICS checks reported by the NSSF in March, but it’s still a staggeringly large figure, especially taking into account the limitations imposed on gun stores throughout the country.
Not only did the stores that were allowed to remain open have to cope with the new social distancing requirements, they also had to deal with massively depleted inventory from distributors. It’s actually fairly remarkable to me that sales were so strong given the empty shelves in gun stores and distributors’ warehouses. Thankfully, we haven’t seen any major shutdowns of manufacturing facilities for either firearms or ammunition during the current coronavirus crisis, and the supply chain for materials remains in pretty good shape according to industry experts I’ve spoken with over the past couple of weeks.
It’s clear that the closing of gun stores had some effect on the number of sales, as did the depleted supply. What’s also clear is that the surge in demand and interest in firearms hasn’t subsided since the rush began in late February and early March. Despite (or maybe because of) the howls of protests by gun control activists who’ve pushed hard to force stores to close, hundreds of thousands of Americans are still acquiring firearms for self-defense, many of them for the first time in their lives.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see sales begin to moderate in May, though as states re-open gun shops and social distancing measures are relaxed, we may see a surge from pent-up demand in places like Massachusetts, Michigan, and Washington. That moderation may be short-lived as well, as Americans begin to pay more attention to the anti-gun candidacy of Joe Biden, who, according to one surrogate would have ordered gun stores to close if he were president. When the country’s new gun owners get a load of what else Biden has in store for them, don’t be surprised if gun sales trend upwards once more.
Hopefully those new gun owners make plans to go to the polls in addition to hitting the range, because if they don’t vote to protect the rights they’re now exercising for the first time, they’re likely to see their rights threatened and curtailed by Sleepy Joe and his anti-gun administration.