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32 million FBI gun sale background checks in 2020 – most ever with 2 months to go

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)
November 04, 2020

The latest FBI data released this week shows a surge in firearm background checks in October, making 2020 the year with the most ever background checks.

FBI data shows that 3,305,465 background checks were conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) during the month of October – an increase of nearly one million checks compared to October 2019’s 2,393,609 checks.

The number of checks also increased just more than 400,000 over September’s 2,892,115 background checks. October became the fourth highest month of background checks, behind June with 3,931,607, March with 3,740,688, and July with 3,639,224.

More than 32,131,914 background checks have been conducted so far in 2020, marking the year of the highest number of background checks since the FBI began recording the data in November 1998.

Background checks in 2019 totaled 28,369,750.

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The number of background checks don’t equate to gun sales, but does show record-shattering increases in Americans’ interest in gun ownership.

2020 has seen two major events impacting gun sales – the presidential election, and the nationwide civil unrest stemming from the killing of black man George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.

Demonstrations had began a week after Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, before spreading to other major cities. Peaceful demonstrations took a turn to clashes with police, destruction against businesses, looting, and even shootings.

Background checks immediately surged in the following two months as Americans expressed an urge in gun ownership amid the civil unrest.

In August, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) found that nearly 5 million Americans purchased a gun for the first time in 2020, representing 40 percent of all sales.

“These first-time buyers represent a group of people who, until now, were agnostic regarding firearm ownership. That’s rapidly changing, and these Americans are taking hold of their God-given right to keep and bear arms and protect themselves and their loved ones.”

NSSF’s data further found that black Americans purchasing guns represented the largest increase among demographic groups at 58 percent.

The 2020 presidential election has been a key influence in background checks and gun sale projections. Democratic candidate Joe Biden has widely promoted strict gun control measures, including forced licensure or buybacks, “assault weapons” ban, bans of online ammunition and guns sales, and more.