June 2021 saw more than 1.2 million gun sales.
That makes it the second-best June on record, according to an industry analysis of FBI numbers released on Thursday. The month fell by about 900,000 sales from the all-time record in 2020. However, it was up more than 100,000 sales from the third-place mark set in 2016.
The number also represents a slight decline from the 1.3 million sold in May as gun sales enter the summer period, which has traditionally been slower. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which represents gun makers and dealers, put together the analysis. The group said the numbers show demand for guns remains high.
“June’s NSSF Adjusted NICS background check figures for the sale of a firearm were the second-highest on record and continue to show that firearm purchases are continuing at an elevated level when viewed over the last five years,” said Mark Oliva, an NSSF spokesman. “These strong figures show that there is sustained interest in lawful possession of firearms.”
The second quarter of 2021 told a similar story to June. NSSF estimated there were 4,297,837 sales during the quarter, which puts it down significantly from 2020 but up significantly from every other year on record. The first quarter of 2021 put it on track to beat 2020 in gun sales, but the elevated demand has not managed to keep up with the unprecedented sales levels seen during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
The numbers were derived from the FBI’s monthly report on checks done by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). However, NICS checks are not a one-to-one representation of gun sales. Most states do not require a NICS check on sales of used guns between regular people, and some don’t require them for retail sales made to those with special permits. Additionally, the raw numbers reported by the FBI include millions of checks that are for gun-carry licenses and other purposes. NSSF uses coding provided by the FBI to estimate how many NICS checks are related to actual sales.
June’s numbers indicate gun sales may be settling into a new normal that is below the all-time records set over the past year but well above any period before that. While motivating factors such as food shortages, prisoner releases, and widespread rioting that drove Americans to flood gun stores have subsided, other motivators remain and are likely to persist for years. NSSF pointed at efforts by President Joe Biden to institute new restrictions on gun ownership as one of those motivators.
“It cannot be discounted that the continued elevated level of increased firearm purchases is driven, in part, by the gun control overtures by the Biden administration,” Oliva said. “As we head into Independence Day, Americans are exercising their right to keep and bear arms in record numbers even as the Biden administration is throwing up roadblocks to keep that from happening.”
NSSF said Biden’s nomination of gun-control activist David Chipman to lead the ATF, his administration’s proposal to ban millions of pistol braces, and his plan to redefine what constitutes a firearm to ban “ghost guns” are continuing to motivate gun owners to buy guns. The trade group said the elevated sales numbers doubled as a political message.
“The Biden administration is determined to use every lever within reach to stifle and disrupt the free exercise of Second Amendment rights, which begin with the ability of citizens who obey the law to freely approach the gun counter,” Oliva said. “Americans aren’t buying it. Instead, they continue to buy guns.”