U.S. gun sales in February surged 23% to 3,442,777. This makes it among the largest single month since sales figures started to be recorded in 1998.
The rise is part of a trend. Gun sales in the United States rose 40% last year to 39,695,315. The figure also represents the high water mark in gun sales since the current record-keeping system went into effect. Increases by state in February varied substantially, as has been the case for years.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation tracks gun sales and publishes a list of how many are handled as part of its National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Each month, the figures are reported by state. Nearly everyone put through this system qualifies as a buyer. People who are excluded usually have criminal records. Of the more than 310 million checks that have been done since 1998, there have only been 1.5 million denials. Therefore, the data is the best proxy for U.S. gun sales available.
Why have gun sales risen so much? According to CNN, it is not unusual for gun sales to spike when a Democrat wins the White House. The election and re-election of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 were both followed by gun sale surges.
However, February gun sales did drop from the record set in January. One reason given is that gun dealer inventory was low due to the huge demand in January. Another is that the weather affected the number of people who shopped for guns.
The year-over-year increase in February should not be taken as unusual, nor should the rise in gun sales from 2019 to 2020 be viewed as an anomaly. The number of gun sales has grown most years since 1999. Sales first topped 25 million in 2016, 20 million in 2013, 15 million in 2011 and 10 million in 2006. The first full year the FBI kept data was 1999, when total sales were 9,138,123.
The state with the most sales in February was Illinois at an extraordinary 902,020. This was after sales in the state of 1,002,118 in January. February’s figure for Illinois was 24% of national sales for the month. However, the state has slightly less than 4% of the national population.
The same pattern holds true for the state that had the second-highest gun sales figure last month. Kentucky’s figure hit 378,449, or 11% of the national total. Its population is only 1.3% of the U.S. number.
At the current pace, gun sales in America will reach almost 45 million this year. It is too early to say whether the February trend will continue. However, it is nearly assured that 2021 will set another annual record.
This is how many guns were sold in each state in February:
|State / Territory||February 2021|
|District of Columbia||920|