Even as we head into the holiday shopping season, sales of firearms have begun to level off. September 2021 saw a more than 10 percent year-over-year decline, and new reporting from 24/7 Wall Street suggested that total 2021 sales could even drop below the 2020 annual figure.
However, the sky isn’t falling, as some factors need to be considered.
First, last month still saw sales of some 2.2 million units in total, exceeding every year prior to 2020. Moreover, for the first three quarters of 2021, firearms sales reached nearly 30.5 million – compared to 28.6 million for the same period a year earlier. Clearly, that was the result of the pandemic, followed by a wave of violent protests across the country that occurred following the killing of George Floyd over Memorial Day weekend 2020.
It is true as well that last year’s fourth-quarter sales were strong, driven in no small part to the election of President Joe Biden, who campaigned on calls for gun control. Biden continued to press forward after taking office, which certainly explains the strong sales in the first half of this year.
Now Biden is focused – or at least should be entirely focused – on other matters, and gun control seems to be on the back burner. His nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), David Chipman, has been withdrawn and it would seem that the calls for gun control have faded for now.
Hunting and Holidays
However, 24/7 Wall Street and other outlets that are reporting that gun sales could take a plunge are also missing some other points, including that we’re heading into not only the holiday shopping season, but hunting season. On any given year the fourth quarter is the strongest for firearms sales and there is little reason to suspect that 2021 won’t be the same.
The financial news site did note however that gun sales have increased most years since 1999, and even if 2021 lags behind 2020, it will still be the second best year on record.
Another important point to consider is that more Americans have begun to embrace their Second Amendment rights, and according to data from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry trade association, more than 3.2 million people purchased a firearm for the first time during the first half of this year. That is also a decline from last year, but there can only be so many “first time buyers.”
More importantly, it shows that between last year and this year well over 10 million and perhaps near to 15 million Americans became firearms owners.
“This survey shows that there is a continuing demand signal for firearms from the American public,” said Joe Bartozzi, NSSF president and CEO.
“We witnessed each month background check figures associated with a gun sale that are second only to those we saw in last year’s record-breaking totals,” added Bartozzi. “These survey results show not only is there a strong and healthy appetite from first-time gun buyers but that there is still room to grow. We are encouraged by the sustained interest in lawful and responsible gun ownership as well as by the manufacturing base which has been challenged to meet this remarkable demand.”
The demographics of gun owners have changed as well. While the media largely continues to suggest that gun owners are mostly older white males, the NSSF found that in the first six months of 2021, more than 90 percent of firearms retailers surveyed reported an increase of African American men purchasing firearms, while nearly 87 percent of retailers reported an increase of African American women purchasing firearms.
Additionally, 84 percent of retailers reported an increase of Hispanic-American men purchasing firearm, and more than 76.5 percent of retailers reported an increase of Asian-American men purchasing firearms. The survey also found that 22.1 percent of customers purchased a second firearm since their initial purchase, and that 44.5 percent of first-time gun buyers in 2021 were under 40. Around 45.7 percent of gun buyers also asked for information on safety training.
Based on all this data, while the pandemic buying spree may be over, sales have still remained strong this year and even if there is a dip next year, the industry should expect another strong year in 2022.
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.