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Report: US gun sales up 71% in April, continuing coronavirus surge

Store managers show a customer ammo at the Get Loaded gun store on June 30, 2016, in Grand Terrace, Calif. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
May 05, 2020

An estimated 1,797,910 guns were sold in the U.S. in April, according to a report Monday by Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting (SAAF), representing a 71 percent increase from April 2019, and following a surge of gun sales amid the coronavirus pandemic.

SAAF’s analysis, which was released Monday, is based on raw figures from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) firearms background check data and adjusted to remove background checks not likely related to firearm purchases. The FBI recorded 2,911,128 total background checks through the NICS system for the month of April.

The SAAF assessment determined likely single handgun purchases accounted for 1,085,046 of the checks, an 83.1 percent increase year over year. Likely single long-gun sales accounted for 560,353 of the check, a 51.7 percent increase from the previous year. Other types of background checks including for “multiple” firearms sales accounted for another 152,512 sales, which showed a 74.6 increase for the year.

The high number of likely firearms purchases follows a similar trend in March, in which the FBI counted 3,740,688 background check requests, the record highest number of checks in a single month. In March, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a firearms industry association, determined that of the more than 3.7 million FBI background checks, around 2.37 million were related to firearms purchases.

The NSSF similarly assessed high firearms sales for April, at an approximate 69.1 percent increase from 2020, according to a statement NSSF spokesman Mark Oliva provided to Fox Business.

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Oliva described the sales numbers as “the strongest April on record.”

“This shows us there is continued appetite among Americans to be able to provide for their own safety during times of uncertainty. These are buyers who have witnessed their government’s empty prisons,” Oliva told Fox. “Police departments are stretched beyond capacity in many cases. Law-abiding Americans recognize this and exercising their right to own a gun and defend themselves and their loved ones.”

The firearms groups have attributed the spike in popularity for gun sales to the coronavirus outbreak and concerns about how states and local governments have been responding to the pandemic.

Gun stores in various states have pushed back against state and local orders to close during the pandemic. Gun rights advocates in Virginia and Massachusetts have pushed back on closure orders against gun stores and shooting ranges from the governors in their states.

The Texas attorney general ruled in March that gun stores may stay open despite other individual cities and counties within the state debating including those stores in closure orders. The governor of Pennsylvania also ruled in favor of maintaining gun stores as “life-sustaining” businesses that may stay open during the pandemic.