2019 was a great year for American gun sellers — and a great year for the Second Amendment by extension. A record number of guns were sold in 2019. Other than individual sales numbers on record for all different gun stores that sell firearms, how does this number get determined? It’s easy. The source? None other than the FBI.
How the FBI Reports on Gun Sales
The FBI records and reports gun sale figures by looking at background checks for firearm purchases. A total of a little more than 28 million background checks were reported for the year 2019. That’s up 3 percent over the previous record set in 2016. It is the biggest year on record for background checks since the National Instant Criminal Background Check System began in 1998.
This stat of 28 million doesn’t exactly represent the number of guns sold, but it does give a pretty good idea of how many people went through with their purchases.
The Number of Guns Sold
In looking at the number of actual firearms sold, it’s helpful to turn to Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting. Chief Economist Jurgen Brauer says that “it’s nearly impossible to calculate single day gun sales” by just looking at the background check system.
The reason being is that not everyone gets approved to purchase a gun, people sometimes buy more than one firearm at a time, and those background checks on each person get run more than once in certain states. So, relating the number of guns sold to the background check number isn’t a precise one-to-one ratio.
Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting does look at each month’s sales numbers from a variety of sources, including retailers reports, to estimate how many firearms units were sold. For 2019, they came up with the number of 13.5 million firearms sold throughout the year. So, it’s a little less than half of the number of background checks issued. That’s still a lot of people exercising their rights to purchase and bear arms if they choose to.
Why the Numbers are so High for Gun Sales
There are a variety of factors that make it clear people aren’t hesitating to purchase more firearms. It’s also hard to tell whether these purchases are going to veteran gun owners, or to people buying their first firearm.
Going into an election year, people are more likely to purchase firearms because many politicians make gun control a big part of their platforms. People are more afraid that their gun rights will be compromised with new people coming into office. Failed presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke is a great example of this. Good law-abiding citizens don’t like their freedoms taken away when it comes to gun rights. In order to assert their rights, they are buying more firearms to compensate.
Larry Keane from the National Shooting Sports Foundation summed up 2019 for the gun world by saying that “the firearms industry has a reason to celebrate.” He’s definitely right.