Americans bought more guns during 2021’s busiest sales day of the year than in 2020.
Black Friday saw the FBI process 187,585 gun-related background checks. That puts it up slightly ahead of the numbers for the previous year, even as 2020 set an all-time gun sales record. Black Friday 2021 is now the tenth-best day ever for background checks in the history of the program. 2021 now has seven of the top ten spots on the list.
Additionally, the total for the week leading up to Black Friday topped 687,788 checks. The numbers indicate the demand for guns has not decelerated significantly since last year, according to the industry.
“We’re still seeing a very strong appetite for firearm ownership in America,” Mark Oliva, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told The Reload.
While most months in 2021 have seen lower gun sales numbers than 2020, they haven’t dropped far and still occasionally outstrip 2020 demand. That indicates the new normal for gun sales will remain well above what it had been pre-pandemic. In fact, more guns were sold through September 2021 than all of 2019.
“This figure of over 687,000 background checks is truly remarkable,” Joe Bartozzi, NSSF President and CEO, said in a statement. “This year has already been shaping up to be the second strongest year for firearm sales on record, second only to 2020’s record-breaking number of 21 million background checks for a firearm sale. We anticipate, based on annual data, that firearm sales will rise during the final month of the year coinciding with hunting seasons and holiday sales.”
The industry has struggled to keep up with the unprecedented demand seen throughout the country since March of last year. Long lines formed, and store shelves were stripped dry as the coronavirus accelerated the urgency to provide for their own safety while facing meat and supply shortages. When rioting came in summer 2020, the lines started up again, and millions more Americans became first-time gun owners.
The surge has left manufacturers scrambling to increase production. Many of the biggest gun companies have been able to significantly increase production and profits. Smith & Wesson banked the first billion-dollar year for a gunmaker in American history.
Bartozzie said the number of sales on Black Friday “underscores” not just sustained demand but the “resilience of the firearm and ammunition industry to meet that demand.”
However, production concerns remain in some parts of the industry and may be a reality for years to come even as sales come down for their 2020 peaks.
Oliva said that while some motivating factors for gun buying in the chaotic atmosphere of 2020 have faded, concerns over new gun restrictions remained a strong incentive for people to buy guns. He pointed to the strong Black Friday sales and the recent defeat of Democrat Terry McAuliffe, an advocate of stricter gun laws, in the Virginia gubernatorial election as evidence Americans are still motivated by gun rights.
“It is becoming apparent to Washington, D.C. and to governors across the country that America values their rights, and they will guard and protect those rights,” Oliva said.
The number of checks run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is widely considered the best analog for gun sales because sales made through licensed dealers require a NICS check. However, NICS numbers are not a one-to-one representation of actual gun sales for several reasons. For instance, sales of used guns between private individuals do not require a NICS check in most states, and some states allow those with gun-carry permits to bypass the checks for each gun purchase.
“These statistics represent the number of firearm background checks initiated through the NICS,” the FBI notes in its report. “They do not represent the number of firearms sold. Based on varying state laws and purchase scenarios, a one-to-one correlation cannot be made between a firearm background check and a firearm sale.”
The Black Friday NICS numbers released by the FBI do not include the detailed breakdown the agency provides for monthly data. The raw numbers include a significant amount of background checks conducted for other reasons such as gun-carry permit processing. The raw numbers are a less perfect, but still useful, metric for understanding how many gun sales have occurred during a specific time period when more detailed information is not available.