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What to Make of Record Gun Sales — Analysis

What to Make of Record Gun Sales — Analysis

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With the incredible gun-buying frenzy of 2020 set to come to an end in just a couple of weeks, many are wondering what the future might look like for gun sales in 2021.

But before we leap into some prognostications, let’s take stock of where we stand. Americans had already purchased a record number of firearms for the year by the end of October, and sales continued to climb after that. During November, sales jumped a whopping 41 percent over last year’s record November with a total of 3.62 million background checks.

So, based on background checks, through the first 11 months of the year, Americans bought  about 35.75 million guns. What the final number will be by the end of the year is, of course, uncertain, but there seems to be no end in sight to increased gun sales at this point. The previous record for an entire year—set in 2019—was 28.36 million.

I personally believe the incredible surge in gun sales in 2020 was caused mostly by four factors that unexpectedly collided—widespread rioting in large cities, the defund police movement, the COVID-19 pandemic and the presidential election.


When the peaceful protests over police shootings became violent riots with burning, smashing, looting and killing, Americans throughout the country became concerned. Suddenly, it seemed like at least part of the population believed they could destroy the property of others just because of a perceived injustice, and if anyone tried to question them they were fair game for attack.


Nights after nights of riots, which the mainstream media tried to shield from the public, were in full swing when the defund the police movement hit its stride. Leaders of some large cities were actually calling for doing away with police forces, replacing them with some form of “community” policing that involved helping criminals instead of arresting them.


The combination of unrest, riots and the possibility of no or far fewer police to keep the chaos in check changed many Americans’ way of thinking.  While many gun owners have long pondered the notion, “If the police can’t protect me, I guess I’ll have to protect myself,” suddenly citizens who had never considered owning a gun were faced with that same stark reality. And the buying spree began.

In the midst of the chaos, the COVID-19 pandemic struck the nation, crippling supply lines for many products, including guns and ammunition. Panic that the nation might be thrown into a horrible recession combined with police being quarantined in large numbers and the fear of a complete disintegration of society led to even more gun sales, along with an incredible run on ammo.

Unfortunately, all this happened on a very contentions presidential election year in which a mostly pro-gun incumbent faced a challenger who has a long history of meddling with the Second Amendment and who ran on a decidedly anti-gun platform. Suddenly, the stockpiling began in earnest. Gun sales shot through the roof and haven’t slowed down yet. Interestingly, sales would be even higher if not for manufacturers being caught by surprise and finding it impossible to keep up with demand.


So, what will 2021 bring? While rioting and defund the police proposals have all but disappeared from the current picture, the COVID pandemic continues to grip the country. Whether that will lead to a continued increase in sales I cannot say.

However, it’s a little easier to speculate on the political side of things. With the election still being contested in courts and possibly soon in Congress, it’s likely half of the country will feel disenfranchised regardless of the final resolution. If Biden is eventually sworn in as president, I have little doubt gun sales could increase even over the records posted in 2020.

One thing that might limit the possibility for continued increases is the actual supply of firearms. While manufacturers are, no doubt, ramping up and producing all the guns they can, only time will tell if they can make enough to meet the demand of the new year.


Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.

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