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Americans Just Bought More Than 1.3 Million Guns

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Americans continued to flood into gun shops nationwide in May 2021.

The month saw the second most sales of any May ever at more than 1.3 million, according to an industry analysis of FBI background check numbers released on Wednesday. The flood of new gun purchases puts May 2021 far ahead of any other May on record besides May 2020. The strong sales numbers mean 2021 is still on pace to break the all-time record for gun sales set just last year.

“Over 8.5 million background checks for the sale of a firearm have been completed this year. That figure outpaces 2020’s totals at the same point, which topped 8.1 million,” Mark Oliva, spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) which conducted the analysis, told The Reload.

May 2021 gun sales
A chart of May gun sales / NSSF

With vaccination rates increasing and the coronavirus receding, many of the motivating factors that drove the early 2020 sales spike have become less potent, but Americans’ desire to purchase guns has yet to significantly slow. Politics may be a top reason for sales continuing on at high levels, Olivia said. President Joe Biden’s call for increased restrictions on gun ownership in America and unilateral action to institute some gun-control proposals through executive action may be pushing more Americans to buy guns.


“Anyone looking for the root causes of why this continues can easily see the reasons,” Oliva said. “These include the nomination of David Chipman, a paid gun control lobbyist and gun control zealot, who admitted before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he wants to ban the most popular selling rifle in America, along with the administration’s proposed rule to redefine unfinished firearm parts as completed firearms and the pending proposal to reclassify pistol fitted with a brace as items strictly controlled by the National Firearms Act. These actions show the contempt this administration holds for gun owners. The reaction is predictable.”

The continuation of an already-yearlong surge will likely put added strain on producers’ efforts to keep up with demand. Barren store shelves and higher-than-normal prices are likely to remain a feature of gun stores across the country until demand falls back down to meet supply. The same is true for the nationwide ammunition shortage that manufacturers and dealers told The Reload they expect to stretch out for years.

NSSF estimates the number of guns sold per month by removing the background checks that are unrelated to gun sales from the monthly report on the background check system produced by the FBI. The numbers do not represent a one-to-one count of guns sold for several reasons. While federal checks are required on nearly all sales made by licensed gun dealers, most states do not require checks for used sales on the secondary market. Additionally, 25 states do not require checks on sales made to people with specialized permits that required a check to obtain, and multiple guns can be sold during one check. Conversely, many states use the checks for gun-carry permits and even recheck all of their permit holders every month, which inflates the raw number of checks.

Oliva said the industry expects high demand for guns to continue for the foreseeable future because of the political atmosphere.

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