In the retail world, it isn’t always possible to top the previous year, but most industries would be happy to maintain strong sales. In the case of the firearms industry, 2021 could be another for the record books, and even as sales have dipped from the record-breaking numbers of last year, July was still strong.
Even as inventories of firearms are limited, ammunition all but impossible to find, and calls for gun control increasing, July saw the second-highest sales ever for the month. An estimated 1.3 to 1.4 million firearms were sold, with yearly totals reaching about 11 million according to an analysis of FBI background check data the Washington Examiner on Wednesday.
“That’s a strong demand signal from the American public that there is steady and strong appetite for continued firearm sales,” Mark Oliva of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry trade group, said via a statement. “Summer is typically a part of the year when firearm sales will slow, but July’s figures defy that trend. Americans are still buying guns, and they’re buying them in numbers higher than previous years and at a pace that would have been unpredictable two or three years ago. To date, more than 11 million background checks have been completed for the sale of a gun.”
FBI background checks totaled some 2.88 million, which was down about five percent from the 3.05 million conducted in June 2021, and down about twenty percent from 3.63 million in July of last year. Background checks are not the same as gun sales, but instead are used as a nationwide proxy, and the NSSF estimated that 1.3 of those checks were in fact for gun purchases.
Tale of Two Years
The decline in sales should have been seen as expected, as numerous factors including the Covid-19 pandemic, social unrest, and violent protests, and then the election of Joe Biden all were factors in the record-setting sales of firearms. It would be almost impossible to keep up that momentum, and yet 2021 has bested all previous years except 2020.
Last year saw a sharp increase in first-time buyers – with upwards of ten million becoming gun owners. Those included many younger people, women, Asian-Americans, and African-Americans. So many new buyers alone impacted the year’s sales numbers. This year won’t likely see a repeat of so many new gun buyers, but it appears that many current gun owners are adding to their personal arsenals.
“Even though the July year-over-year headline number fell drastically, estimated unit sales of nearly 1.4 million in July 2021 increased by over 500,000 units when compared to the more ‘normal’ July 2019 data,” said Jurgen Brauer, chief economist at Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting, which tracks firearms sales. “Indeed, apart from last year’s extraordinary July number, the July 2021 number is the highest on record.”
As states such as Illinois have sought to pass new gun control legislation, and President Biden continues to call for additional gun control, it is likely the strong sales of firearms will continue throughout the rest of 2021, and perhaps into next year. The downside could be less selection and that darn ammo shortage will likely continue as well.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.