May Gun Sales Down but Up from Pre-Pandemic Levels

Americans continue to buy firearms at near-record levels.

posted on June 14, 2022
May Gun Sales

Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF) estimates May 2022 U.S. firearm unit sales came in at roughly 1.3 million units, a year-over-year decrease of 12.6 percent compared to May of 2021. Sales in handguns dipped the most, at -13.1 percent, with long guns close behind at -12 percent.

Despite the drop, gun sales remain significantly higher than before the pandemic and widespread social unrest fueled a record-setting demand and resulting shortages. “The May 2022 year-over-year drop in firearms unit sales continues to fit the pattern thus far this year: monthly drops relative to 2021 but still substantially above the pre-pandemic levels: in 2019, unit sales from January to May amounted to about 5.6 million units; in 2020, they were about 8.7 million; in 2021, about 9.2 million; and in 2022 about 7.2 million for the same months,” Jurgen Brauer, SAAF chief economist, wrote in the press release.

SAAF estimates are based on volume processed through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background System Checks each month and include adjustment based on retailer surveys to account for purchases not traditionally included in government figures. The raw monthly numbers, for example, do not include sales to holders of valid concealed carry permits in states that do not require they undergo a redundant background check, or private transfers in some regions.

For April, SAAF estimates a total of 1.5 million firearms were sold in the United States, a year-over-year, monthly decline of 20.7 percent. Handguns, again, slowed most in sales when compared to the same period in 2021. Brauer put the comparison to pre-pandemic levels by noting at the time, “…in 2019, unit sales from January to April amounted to about 4.6 million whereas in 2022 they amounted to about 5.9 million for the same months.”


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