Media Can't Stop Its Bad Reporting On Gun Sales Figures

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Earlier this week I highlighted an egregiously incorrect CNN story that claimed the state of Illinois saw nearly 1-million firearms sold in the month of April, which would have been more than half of all the gun sales in the country last month. The CNN reporter was apparently clueless about the fact that the National Instant Check System is used for more than just background checks on gun sales, and he simply tallied up all of the NICS checks performed in Illinois assuming that each and every one was for the sale of a firearm.

I’d love to say that my fact check fixed the problem, but there are still reporters out there spewing misinformation and spreading their own ignorance to their readers. The latest example comes from a website called 24/7 Wall St, which ran a story full of false information that’s been picked up by major news aggregators like Microsoft News.

U.S. gun sales in the first four months of 2021 surged 31% to 15,966,389. This makes it among the largest figures since sales started to be recorded in 1998.

The increase is part of a trend. Gun sales in the United States rose 40% last year to 39,695,315. That represents the high water mark in annual gun sales since the current record-keeping system went into effect. Increases by state in April and for the first four months varied substantially, as has been the case for years.

Again, the reporter is conflating the number of NICS checks performed with the number of guns sold, which you simply can’t do. The National Shooting Sports Foundation actually separates out the NICS checks performed on gun transfers from the checks conducted on things like concealed carry applications, and they determined that about 21-million firearms were sold. There’s a big difference between 21-million and 40-million, though the NSSF’s adjusted NICS numbers were still a new record for gun sales.

24/7 Wall St. also repeats CNN’s false claim that Illinois residents are arming up by the millions, despite the fact that his has been thoroughly debunked.

The increases in April and first four months should not be taken as unusual, nor should the rise in gun sales from 2019 to 2020 be viewed as an anomaly. The number of gun sales has increased most years since 1999. Sales first topped 25 million in 2016, 20 million in 2013, 15 million in 2011 and 10 million in 2006. In 1999, the first full year the FBI kept data, sales totaled 9,138,123.

The state with the most gun sales through the first four months was Illinois at 4,287,494. The state has only 4% of the population but accounted for 27% of gun sales for the period.

No self-respecting reporter could look at that stat and think that it makes sense, especially if they know anything at all about Illinois’s gun laws and their continued woes in processing Firearms Owner ID cards, which are required before Illinois residents can purchase a firearm.

No, there haven’t been over 4-million guns sold in Illinois this year. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, there were 190,838 NICS checks conducted on firearms transfers in Illinois between January and April, including 44,217 in last month.

That’s still a lot of guns, and the demand is surely higher thanks to the inability or unwillingness of the Illinois State Police to process FOID applications in a timely manner, but news outlets like CNN and 24/7 Wall St. continue to miss the real story because their reporters are too ignorant to see it.

Many gun owners are skeptical of the news media’s coverage on Second Amendment issues, and with good reason. When reporters aren’t demonstrating outright hostility to the right to keep and bear arms, they’re showing us that they have no clue about the issue they’re covering. The news media is a mess, generally speaking, but their reporting on gun issues is truly abysmal.