Americans set a new record for background checks to purchase a firearm, reaching 3.9 million in June alone, according to the FBI.
The news continues a trend of high numbers of background checks for firearms purchases in 2020. This year has seen out of the 10 weeks with the highest number of background checks processed since the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) began in 1998 with just 21,196 background checks recorded.
“Civil unrest, rioting, looting and calls to defund police are unquestionably motivating factors of why this trend is increasing,” Mark Oliva of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearm industry trade association, told National Public Radio.
Riots broke out in cities across the United States following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis Police custody on May 25.
In addition to the riots, calls to “defund the police” have been sweeping the nation. In June, the Portland City Council voted to defund the police bureau by $15 million. Earlier this month, Seattle’s city council approved a $3 million cut to the city’s police budget.
In Minneapolis, where robberies are up 37 percent from last year, the Minneapolis Police Department released a list of “Robbery Prevention Tips,” telling residents to carry less cash and unnecessary personal items and to “give up their phones and wallets and to always cooperate” if confronted by criminals.
“Americans are right to be concerned for their personal safety. It’s entirely reasonable that law-abiding citizens are exercising their Constitutional right to purchase a firearm to protect themselves,” Oliva said in a written statement to NPR.
Background checks remained high in July. Illinois had the most background checks in July, with 714,424. The next most was Kentucky with 292,534, then Texas with 213,969, Florida with 190,975, and Indiana with 176,861.
By comparison, during this July of last year, Illinois had 439,458 background checks conducted, Kentucky had 319,270, Texas had 91,183, Florida had 84,028, and Indiana had 61,139.
The increase in background checks does not necessarily directly correspond with an increase in gun sales and the federal government does not track gun sales.
“Background checks do not correspond one-to-one with sales for a number of reasons: multiple guns can be sold in a single check, and many checks are conducted for purposes other than sales, such as permit applications,” The Trace reported. “NICS also does not account for most private gun sales, which in some states can occur without a background check.”
Small Arms Analytics, a consulting firm that studies small arms and ammunition markets, estimated that the June background check figures translated to about 2.4 million gun sales.