Buoyed by a contentious national election cycle and continued buzz over gun bans and civil unrest, firearms sales shot to a new record last month. 

One of the best indicators of firearms sales, the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System logged 3,602,296 checks in November, an increase of 41 percent over the figure of 2,545,863 for November 2019. 

However, when checks and rechecks for carry permits and the like are subtracted from that figure by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, leaving a more concrete number for over-the-counter checks on gun transfers conducted through federal firearms licensees, it yields 1,949,141 checks, which is an increase of 45.2 percent compared to the November 2019 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,342,155. 

November 2020 was by far the highest in the NICS system’s 21-year history. (Graphic: NSSF)

A big part of that bump came from Black Friday Weekend, which was up 4.2 percent from last year overall, significantly trending higher on Cyber Monday, which saw its NICS figures bounce 65.2 percent, the latter a potential nod to the increased accessibility of the online firearms marketplace through sites like Guns.com. 

(Graphic: NSSF)

When added to the rest of the year, the 2020 running total stands at some 19.1 million adjusted checks, dwarfing the 2016 annual record of 15.7 million checks, and the year still has another month to go before the books are closed. Of those checks, NSSF estimates that a whopping 7.7 million came from new first-time gun buyers. 

"November background checks are in line with what we’ve seen all year long," said Mark Oliva, NSSF's director of public affairs. "Americans continue to purchase firearms at record pace for a variety of reasons, including concerns for personal safety, onerous gun control plans by a Biden-Harris administration, and for lawful purposes including recreational shooting, hunting, and self-defense. The fact that the pace of these sales hasn’t slowed since March shows Americans value their Second Amendment freedoms and will exercise the right to keep and bear arms at their choosing."

Oliva stresses that lawmakers eager to enact new restrictions on lawful gun ownership and the industry that supports it should do their own math on what that means for support for such measures. 

"Politicians looking for a mandate on firearms should examine the record-setting figures Americans are posting every month with firearm sales," said Oliva. “Americans have told their elected representatives more than 19 million times exactly where their voters stand when it comes to their rights, more than 7.5 million making that declaration publicly for the first time in their lives."

In the end, the numbers themselves are likely a low-ball figure as they do not capture instances of multiple gun sales on the same NICS check/4473, or face-to-face gun transfers which in most states do not require a third-party check through an FFL, or instances where firearms are transferred in one of 25 states that allow valid firearm or carry permits to be substituted in place of a Brady Check. 

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