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Gun Sales Were Near Record Levels in 2021

Gun Sales
Image of a Sig Sauer P320. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Last year wasn’t exactly one for the record books in terms of overall firearms sales. According to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the number of firearms-related background checks conducted in 2021 declined to 38.8 million from the record high of 39.6 million a year prior.

However, the first five months of 2021 did set new records, and sales last year still surpassed every year before 2020. Additionally, the historic levels of sales also occurred during the worldwide supply chain bottleneck that resulted in the lack of raw materials that are used to make ammunition. The supply of nearly all popular calibers was outpaced by demand.

Clearly, many Americans were thus buying guns even as they may have known that shooting those new firearms was going to be more difficult due to ammunition shortages. While ammunition has been far more expensive than it was pre-pandemic. Another consideration for 2021 is that prices for firearms also remained at near-record highs, so last year may have set records in total dollar sales, though it is still too soon for reports of total dollars to be released.

End of Year Gun Sales

According to the firearms industry lobby group the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), estimated sales for December 2021 were close to 21 million – making it also the second strongest final month of the year on record, and surpassed only by December 2020.

The story has been true for all of 2021, including November. In fact, 2020’s record-setting sales may have been driven by the election of President Joe Biden, whose campaign included new calls for gun control legislation.

“The report of November’s figures puts 2021 as the second strongest year for firearm sales on record, behind only 2021’s outlier year of 21 million background checks for a gun sale,” explained NSSF spokesman Mark Oliva last month.

“November 2021’s NSSF-Adjusted NICS total of 1,543,378 brings the year-to-date total to 16,722,291 background checks for the sale of a firearm,” added Oliva. “That remarkable figure was reinforced by the FBI’s report of more than 678,000 unadjusted background checks performed during the week leading up to and including Black Friday. This milestone figure of more than 16.7 million background checks for a gun sale shows there is still a strong appetite for lawful firearm ownership and America values the God-given right to keep and bear arms. Month after month, and now year after year, Americans are voting with their wallets when it comes to gun rights in record numbers.”

President Biden had been quite vocal on the issue of gun control after taking office, and last month used the anniversary of the Parkland school shooting to urge lawmakers to push his anti-Second Amendment agenda. However, according to recent polls, it seems fewer Americans are in favor of such new legislation.

Yet, clearly, it isn’t just the polls that lawmakers need to pay attention to – as the sales numbers also speak volumes.

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 Peter is a Forbes Magazine Contributing Writer as well. 

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.