Gun sales continued to mushroom in June, apparently due to a confluence of Joe Biden’s surge in polls, the spread of COVID-19, and ongoing protests against police brutality and racial injustice. Americans bought 2.4 million firearms in June, according to industry estimates from Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting. That is a 145% increase from June 2019. Handgun sales make up the bulk of those estimates and increased at an even higher year-over-year rate of 178%.
The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System processed more than 3.9 million firearm background checks in June, a monthly high since the FBI began reporting these statistics in 1998 and a full 70% increase over the same period last year. The FBI’s background checks data don’t serve as an exact measure of gun sales. Some states run background checks on gun permit-holders, so background checks cannot be equated directly to gun sales. Still, they serve as a proxy, and SAAF uses that data to form its sales estimates. Gun sales started to climb sharply in March, according to industry estimates, and continued to boom in April and May. June saw nearly 900,000 more FBI background checks than an already-high May. The increase in sales concerns some safety advocates. Higher availability of guns could lead to an increase in violent crime like homicide, according to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. Advocates and public health experts have also warned of the increased risk of domestic violence and suicide, especially in the midst of the pandemic. It’s unclear if the spike during the pandemic, especially in June, was driven by new gun owners or existing owners adding to their collections. Experts have said they worry more about increased violence if data show an increase in new gun owners, as it expands the base of gun ownership. [full article]