September 2020 NICS and Gun Sales Continue Record Trend

Millions of law-abiding citizens submit to background checks, as intimated by the president's comment to reporters. (Dave Workman)
Do ‘universal background checks' really work to reduce gun-related crime? (Dave Workman)

U.S.A.-( September of 2020 was a record for both firearm sales and NICS background checks in the United States. There were 2,892,115 background checks done in September, and about 1.614 million firearm sales. The firearm sales is not a precise figure because of uncertainties about multiple firearms sold with one NICS check and firearms sold to people who can legally purchase firearms without an instant NICS check.

The firearms figure is calculated by the number of NICS checks done for handguns +  long guns + other guns + 2.5 X the number of checks where multiple guns were sold on one check. It is a good approximation.

The 2,892,115 number of checks are directly from the FBI sources for the number of NICS checks done for the month. It is the highest number of checks done in any previous September. The next highest was done last September, in 2019, with 2,207,312 checks done.

The number of checks has been rising because the checks are used for several other purposes, especially for weapons permits and weapons permit rechecks. In September 2020, those made up 44% of the total number of checks. In September of 2019, permit and permit rechecks made up 56% of the checks.

Courtesy Dean Weingarten

Permit and permit rechecks had been rising as a percentage of the number of total checks. The percentage of permit and permit rechecks has dropped significantly because of the closure of permit systems in several states. In Illinois alone, the number of permits and permit rechecks dropped by 165,000 in September.

In September of 2019, gun sales were .974 million. In September of 2020, they are 1.614 million, or 1.65 x the number last year. For the first nine months of 2020, the number sold is about 15.1 million guns, or 1.7 x the number sold in 2019.

If we extrapolate the trend to the end of the year, there will have been 21.6 million firearms sold in 2020. This requires an average of nearly 2.2 million firearms sold in each of the last three months of 2020.

The question becomes: Is there sufficient firearms production capacity to meet this incredible demand for privately owned firearms?

The highest number of sales on record, for one month, was in December of 2015, when over 2.2 million firearms were sold.

It is likely every manufacturer of firearms and firearms parts on the planet is scrambling to cash in on this insatiable demand for firearms in the United States.

All of the rest of the world combined does not come close to the demand for firearms in the United States.

That would not be true if most people in the world were allowed by their government to own the means of effective self-defense.

There are few governments that protect the right to armed defense of self and others. Those governments are pressured by other governments to restrict the ownership of arms more than they currently are.

Switzerland used to have more freedom of arms than the United States. As of 1998, that was no longer true. Yemen may officially allow more, but it is in the middle of a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with the U.S. backing the Saudi government.  It is unknown if Yemen will survive as an independent state.

Australia and Canada had free access to rifles and shotguns until the late 1990s.  By 2000, both governments had implemented much stricter controls on long guns.

Australia moved to even greater restrictions on handguns in 2002; Canada reversed their requirement for long gun registration in 2011.

Part of the reason the demand is so high in the United States, is because people in the United States are the wealthiest large population on earth. Guns have always been a measure of wealth. All wealthy elites on the planet have access to guns.

The trend will continue. The private stock of firearms in the United States will increase by more than 20 million guns in 2020. The private stock of firearms in the United States will have increased by about 4% in one year.  The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) says 40% of 2020 gun buyers are new gun buyers. The number of gun owners in the United States will have increased by 8% in one year.

The total number of guns in private hands will have increased to over 460 million.

As of the end of September, 2020, the best estimate for that number is about 457 million privately owned guns.  The Small Arms Survey (SAS) estimates there were 1,013 million small arms in the world, with 857 million of those in private hands, as of 2017 .  At that time, the SAS estimated 393 million firearms in private hands in the United States.  It was close to my estimate of 418 million private firearms in the United States as of 2017. The Small Arms Survey does not consider police firearms to be private; in the United States, many police firearms are privately owned.

A reasonable estimate shows United States private persons owning about half of all private small arms in the world, about 40% of all small arms in the world, or three times as many small arms as all the armies of the world combined.

There has been nothing like the arming of the American citizenry in all of history.

Every month, Americans are buying more small arms than exist in most countries' armed forces.

It is a very rough equivalence. Private arms in the United States are heavy on handguns, heavy on long-range rifles, heavy on shotguns. There are very few mortars, machine guns, hand grenades, or anti-personnel mines.

Relatively unregulated, and currently available in the United States, are night vision devices, body armor, and gas masks.

It is unlikely the cell phone system in the United States could compete with a tactical communications system of nearly any military.  Secure communications may be the weakest point of spontaneously organized American militias.

Much of the purpose of the Second Amendment was to make the United States a prickly porcupine to foreign enemies and local tyrants.

It is unclear how important such a vast array of small arms will be in a tyranny enforced by armed drones and digital means of soft coercion.

May the United States never find out.

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean Weingarten

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1 month ago

Firearms purchases continue to be limited by supply. I wonder how many would have sold if retailers had had stock and prices similar to last year. Certainly ammo sales would have been higher – in count and possibly dollars as well.

1 month ago

Another superb article, Dean. Keep informing us…we need it.

1 month ago

Every time there is a democrat threat to this nation, Americans flock to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights. This has been proven time and again. Ammunition, handguns, handloading all are in very short supply. Here in California where the government is all democrat control, they go to extraordinary extremes to literally limit all commercial sales of any firearm related. They go as far as creating requirements that don’t exist to restrict future handgun sales. Beware of California’s draconian policies that will poison the rest of the country. And by the way, Kamala Harris was instrumental in getting these restrictions in… Read more »