The volume of National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) checks conducted by the FBI—which includes carry permit processing and other administrative use of the system not related to the sale of a gun—was 3,091,455 for last month, only the third time in history that the mark has surpassed three million.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) estimates the first four months of 2020 saw a total of 6.5 million gun purchases run through the NICS system, an increase of 48 percent during the same time period last year, which stood at only 4.4 million at that point in 2019. Those figures do not reflect the record-shattering sales last month, though.
A survey of retailers conducted by NSSF in May found that 40 percent of the people buying firearms were first-time gun owners. The figure is a 67 percent increase over results from previous polls conducted by the organization. Average price they were spending on guns and gear was $595, most of the purchases were semi-automatic pistols and 25 percent of the new owners had already received some form of firearm training. Of those who did not, 63 percent inquired about upcoming classes or where they could receive qualified instruction.
SAAF estimates May’s likely handgun sales totaled 1,052,723. The organization’s estimate of long gun purchases was 535,014.
Widespread conjecture that nationwide protests are fueling the surge are not supported by the figures, according to SAAF Chief Economist Jurgen Brauer. He explained, “The NICS numbers through May 31st do not appear to bear out any such impression. In both May 2019 and May 2020, one sees the regular weekly cycle, without any observable unusual spike. The spike one does see is for March 20th, 2020, undoubtedly due to the global and nationwide COVID-19 crisis.”