Volume of firearm purchases in October that resulted in an FBI NICs background check was the second highest for the 31-day reporting period on record, lagging only behind the scalding pace in 2020 when the pandemic and social unrest drove transfers to all-time highs. Total unit sales for last month, according to Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF) estimates, was roughly 1.53 million, which is 31.8 percent higher than the same period in 2019, but 20.1 percent less than the previous year.
Despite the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) estimate for October sales coming in slightly more conservative—at 1,427,264—Mark Oliva, the organization’s director of public affairs said, “The annual total so far of nearly 15.2 million background checks is putting 2021 on the path to being the second strongest year on record. It is currently behind only the record-shattering 21 million background checks witnessed in 2020 and the 15.7 million background checks conducted during 2016.”
SAAF Chief Economist Jurgen Brauer noted in a press release that, “If the pattern of recent months were to hold for the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons (November and December), one would expect firearms unit sales to reach a year-end total of nearly 20 million firearms, far above the previous non-pandemic high of 16.7 million reached in 2016.”
Oliva noted the agility of the industry, which responded to health-related concerns while meeting demand—during raw-material supply chain struggle—is on full display. “This continued and sustained pace of background checks for the sale of a firearm, that is climbing in the closing months of 2021, shows the resiliency of the firearm manufacturers to meet this sustained, high-level demand and the personal interest by the American public to participate in the exercise of their God-given Second Amendment rights,” he said.
In some regions of the country the purchase of a firearm does not require an FBI NICS check for holders of a valid concealed carry license or for private transfers. That, along with the fact that that sale of two or more guns at the same time to a single enthusiast through an FFL results in a single background check, makes both estimates above likely conservative.