Gun Imports Surged Last Year, Providing New Target For Biden

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

We know that 2020 was the busiest year on record for gun sales, with an estimated 21-million NICS checks performed on firearms transfers. That translated into long lines and empty store shelves, not to mention firearms and ammunition manufacturers implementing production changes to try to keep up with the increased demand that began with the first COVID lockdown measures one year ago.


According to the firm Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting, however, American gun companies weren’t the only ones working overtime. Gun imports surged last year as well. From FOX Business:

The U.S. imported 6.4 million handguns and long-guns in 2020, compared to the 4 million in 2019, Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting announced. The plurality of these types of firearms came from Turkey – which exported 1,478,464 – as well as Austria with 1,284,785 and Brazil with 1,016,630, the SAAF said. Other top countries include Croatia, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic and China.

The SAAF data excludes muzzleloaders and military weapons.

Meanwhile, 3.455 million munitions were imported in 2020, and largely came from Russia – which tops the charts with 765,487,845 units – Mexico, Italy, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Serbia, South Korea and Hungary, among others, the SAAF found.

The SAAF said the surge in gun imports “is in line with last year’s demand surge.” Around 23 million guns were sold in 2020, with U.S. imports supplying 28% of the firearm demand, gun groups said.

So more than one-quarter of the firearms that were sold in the U.S. last year came from overseas, though the SAAF data doesn’t separate handgun imports from long gun imports. Why is this important? Because Joe Biden vowed to ban the importation of modern sporting rifles via executive action when we was a presidential candidate.

  • Ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Federal law prevents hunters from hunting migratory game birds with more than three shells in their shotgun. That means our federal law does more to protect ducks than children. It’s wrong. Joe Biden will enact legislation to once again ban assault weapons. This time, the bans will be designed based on lessons learned from the 1994 bans. For example, the ban on assault weapons will be designed to prevent manufacturers from circumventing the law by making minor changes that don’t limit the weapon’s lethality. While working to pass this legislation, Biden will also use his executive authority to ban the importation of assault weapons. 

So far Biden hasn’t issued any executive actions dealing with firearms, which is fairly surprising. For now the administration has been content to let Congress do the heavy lifting on gun control, even though the prospects for passage in the Senate are murky at the moment, with gun control activists and anti-gun Democrats lobbying Republicans in the Senate in an attempt to get ten GOP votes for gun control.

If Biden were to implement his ban on the importation of modern sporting rifles, he could put a sizable dent in the number of firearms brought to this country for sale. Even worse, there’s precedent for such a ban, thanks to George H.W. Bush’s similar ban put in place back in 1989 after a shooting in Stockton, California left five children dead. Under the Gun Control Act of 1968, “non-sporting” firearms can be banned from import, and the Bush administration took aim at the imports as part of his anti-crime approach.


Under ordinary circumstances the domestic firearms industry would be able to pick up the slack, but if Biden implemented a similar ban today it could very well impact the number of firearms available for consumers. Given the large number of imports in 2020, gun control advocates may have found a new priority for the administration’s anti-gun efforts, and one that doesn’t involve Congress at all.


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