Gun sales in America, as estimated by background checks, jumped at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and remained high until well into 2021. Several days and weeks in that period set all-time records. Total sales were 28,369,750 in 2019 and 39,659315 in 2020. These figures come from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System — firearm background checks are often used as a proxy for gun sales.
Recently, however, gun sales have collapsed, both month to month and year over year. The pace of the decline accelerated in June. June gun sales last year totaled 3,054,726 nationwide. Last month, nationwide gun sales totaled 2,570,608. Compared to the first six months of 2021, there were 6.4 million fewer background checks for the purchase of a firearm, a 28.7% drop. (This is the country where people own the most guns.)
Why have gun sales slowed? It was more evident why they rose for months. The New York Times reported in May 2021, “While gun sales have been climbing for decades — they often spike in election years and after high-profile crimes — Americans have been on an unusual, prolonged buying spree fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, the protests last summer and the fears they both stoked.”
During the period of the increase, the number of first-time gun buyers jumped. Sales also rose among women and minorities. First-time buyers have accounted for about 20% of new gun sales nationwide in 2020.
Even when gun sales are falling, there are periods when they spike, most notably when there are mass shootings – as there have been with horrible frequency this year. The theory about why mass shootings may cause a spike in gun sales is the often ensuing rhetoric about curbing gun sales through increased regulations to stop these incidents. Many politicians have made sure this has not happened. (These are the deadliest mass shootings since the Columbine massacre.)
Still, gun sales have declined during the first six months of the year in 47 states. To determine the states with the greatest collapse in gun sales, 24/7 Wall St. ranked states by the change in background checks in January-June 2022 compared to the same period in 2021, using data from the FBI’s NICS. Population figures came from the Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey and are five-year averages. Gun sales have dropped between 8.4% to nearly 66%.
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