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Firearm background checks increased 30 percent in September, FBI data shows

Used guns for sale. (Julian-G. Albert/Flickr)
October 12, 2020

September became the seventh consecutive month to see a double-digit increase in federal firearm background checks.

According to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), September had a nearly 30 percent increase in background checks year over year, with 2,892,115 checks conducted in 2020 compared to 2,207,312 in 2019.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) adjusts the raw NICS statistics and factors out those unlikely to purchase a firearm in order to more accurately reflect how many firearms are actually sold. According to NSSF’s analysis, 2020 is on track to surpass the previous record of background checks of 15.7 million, set in 2016, with over 20 million checks initiated by year’s end.

“This indicates that there is a continued desire for Americans to exercise their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. It is plausible that this number could actually have been higher, but inventory is low due to months of sustained high demand. This has been a year unlike any other, where law-abiding Americans are seeing for themselves the need to be able to protect themselves and their family,” said Mark Oliva, director of public affairs for the NSSF.

NSSF also said “87 percent of retailers saw an increase in firearm sales during the first half of 2020” compared to the first half of 2019. Ammunition sales have jumped even more, with 92 percent of retailers reporting an increase for the first half of 2020.

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Among the retailers that reported a spike, the average increase in firearm sales during the first half of 2020 was 95 percent. The average increase in ammunition sales during the same period was 139 percent.

The spike in firearm background checks, in addition to the jump in firearm and ammunition sales, comes as the United States is facing months of civil unrest and skyrocketing crime.

Oliva said background checks typically rise during election years due to gun control threats, noting that “this has been a year unlike any other, where law-abiding Americans are seeing for themselves the need to be able to protect themselves and their family.”

With the election just weeks away, Oliva said special attention has been paid to the candidates’ positions on gun control measures, particularly where confiscation and banning are concerned. According to presidential candidate Joe Biden’s official website, Biden will seek to ban the manufacture and sale of “assault weapons” and “high capacity” magazines, institute a mandatory buy-back or federal registration of assault weapons, and limit the number of firearms an individual can purchase to one per month. Biden also supports implementing “red flag” laws, which recently led to the seizure of 36 Virginia resident’s firearms.

“It cannot be discounted that threats by Joe Biden to confiscate, ban, register and regulate out of existence, the firearms Americans want the most are driving sales,” Oliva said