Gun Sales Are Spiking Thanks to Coronavirus and The 2020 Election

In less than three weeks leading up to Election Day, gun sales continued to surge – and according to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is used as an industry barometer, activity increased 41 percent in the first quarter for nine months a year Compared to the same period in 2019.

This is noteworthy as the record for firearms sales was set last year, but firearms have been in steady demand since the coronavirus outbreak. Guns are always essentially “recession-proof”, but this year the combination of a pandemic, demand for “defusing the police” and an election where new lawmakers could install gun control is simply no longer on the charts.

In the first half of the year, more than nineteen million checks were carried out, more than in all of 2012 or a year earlier – up to the point when the system was introduced in late 1998. Sales were successful in the months that followed, not declining.

First-time buyers who drive sales

While many American gun owners certainly don’t need another reason to buy another gun, sales this year have driven the number of first-time buyers, which have soared to record levels. This was mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic mentioned above, but also to the massive unrest. Many buyers fear that the presidential controversial race could lead to violence.

According to a report by Reuters and The New York Post quoting arms industry analysts and trade groups, initial purchases more than doubled in 2020, accounting for 40 percent of all sales that year.

Just as sales broke records in the spring, so did sales last month. By the end of last month, there were more than 28.8 million background checks, surpassing the record high of 28.4 million from last year.

Eight of the top ten background check weeks occurred that year. The busiest week was last March, shortly after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a pandemic. The most important month for background checks this year was June, which occurred after the death of George Floyd in police custody and sparked national protests and riots.

Brisk business

The arms industry saw brisk business, and two of the country’s leading arms manufacturers, Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger, saw their share prices rise this year. S&W was up 131 percent while Ruger’s shares were up 59 percent.

In July, sales of the modern AR-15 sporting rifle were so strong that just months after leaving the civilian market, Colt Manufacturing Company resumed sales of the weapon to focus on sales to military and law enforcement agencies. The company saw sales of the popular black gun slump as supply far exceeded demand across the industry, lowering the price.

This year’s uncertainty led to an increase in sales and also in the price shooters were willing to pay for the AR-15, which inspired Colt to come back on the market. Given that Samuel Colt was far more of a businessman than an actual weapons designer, he would have been pleased with the company’s ability to turn around accordingly.

One company that was unable to correct its course despite strong sales that year was Remington Arms Company, which filed for bankruptcy in July. Last month it was announced that the company’s Ilion, New York facility would be sold as part of the company’s liquidation. The arms manufacturer, founded in Ilion by blacksmith Eliphalet Remington in 1816, will likely see its various stores and brands buy and take over from other industrial companies.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear, including A Gallery of Military Headdress, available on

Image: Reuters.

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