Guns for sale are displayed on a wall at a gun store during April 2023
Guns for sale are displayed on a wall at a gun store during April 2023 / Stephen Gutowski

Gun Sales Climb Again in November

For the second month in a row, gun sales have increased compared to 2022.

That’s according to an industry analysis of FBI background check data released on Monday. There were 1,595,476 checks on gun sales in November 2023. That’s up five percent from the previous year. It is the second month in a row to experience a year-over-year increase.

The numbers, compiled by the industry trade group National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), make November 2023 the third-best November on record. They also make it the 52nd month straight to see more than a million gun sales background checks.

The upward trend in gun sales comes after an extended period of decline. After setting all-time records during 2020 and 2021, the industry saw demand recede. Though most months in 2023 saw year-over-year declines, the last two have reversed course. The gun industry tends to grow through surges and recessions that follow particularly fraught periods, especially if they lead to renewed pushes for gun restrictions.

Demand for guns tends to spike during or in the immediate aftermath of a significant national threat, then slow down in the following months or years. However, that demand has historically leveled back out in a range above where it was before the spike. With October and November 2023 seeing a rebound in sales, there’s new evidence that trend could be repeating itself as a new demand floor settles in above the typical range seen before 2020.

Mark Oliva, an NSSF spokesman, said November’s results are evidence of “vibrant demand for lawful firearm ownership.” He noted many Americans buy guns for hunting season and as holiday gifts during the end of the year, which likely contributed to driving sales. But he argued the political environment is driving Americans to their local gun shops as well.

“There are many communities with sustained levels of crime that have not abated,” Oliva said in a statement. “Those concerns, along with the punishing antigun measures by the Biden administration and threats of more gun control promised by the Biden-Harris reelection campaign, cannot be discounted as contributing factors.”

November’s figures also come after 2023 Black Friday set a new record for the total number of checks run through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) during the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. However, the Black Friday numbers are a less reliable gauge of gun sales than NSSF’s monthly analysis because the FBI only reports the raw number of checks on Black Friday. For monthly numbers, the FBI posts a detailed breakdown of each NICS check’s category. NSSF then uses that data to estimate which NICS checks were specifically for gun sales and which are for other purposes, such as gun-carry permit applications.

Still, the NSSF numbers don’t represent a one-to-one record of gun sales for several reasons. While nearly all sales conducted by licensed gun dealers can only go through after a NICS check, making the number of checks done a reliable metric of sales levels, the system does not capture every gun sale. Most states don’t require NICS checks on used gun sales between private parties. 24 states also allow those with valid gun-carry permits to bypass a traditional NICS check.

2023 is still on track to be a lower sales year than 2022, but Americans tend to buy the most guns in December. The FBI tends to release its NICS monthly reports a few days into the next month. So, December 2023’s numbers should be published in early 2024.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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