The string of monthly record-high gun numbers slowed in February as gun shops increasingly had empty cases and gun buyers fought bad winter weather. 

While the second month of the year saw a significant increase in firearm background checks when compared to the data from February 2020, last month was "only" the third highest February on record rather than setting a new bar.  

The unadjusted number of 3,394,895 checks, conducted through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System in February 2021, is a 22.3 percent jump from the unadjusted FBI NICS figure of 2,776,380 in February 2020.

When the figures are adjusted by removing data for gun permit checks and rechecks by states which use NICS for that purpose, the latest total stands at 1,387,076, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade organization for the U.S. gun industry. This number is a 7.2 percent increase when compared against the February 2020 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,294,123.

Last month was the third highest February in the NICS program's history and a three-year high. However, it was still surpassed by 2013 and 2016 figures. (Chart: NSSF)


Bare shelves, low temps


While the NICS data still shows growth in the firearm market, industry experts feel the reasons for the slower growth when compared to the past year may not point to demand being lower. 

"Firearm retailers in many locations are still showing empty display cases and low inventory, indicating that firearms are still sought after," Mark Oliva, NSSF's public affairs director, told "February’s background check figures too may have been affected by the Arctic weather that blanketed much of the nation in February. Background checks for gun sales in Texas alone were 13 percent below last February."

Still, with the new Biden administration and sympathetic one-party rule on Capitol Hill clamoring for more restrictions on legal firearms and lawful gun owners, Americans will likely continue to circle back on the question of buying more. 

"It’s not lost on the firearm industry that after a year of record-setting figures for gun sales, Democrats favoring gun control in both chambers of Congress are ignoring the will of their voters and introducing legislation to limit the rights of law-abiding citizens instead of concentrating efforts to reduce crime," said Oliva. "It is staggering the tone-deaf response by politicians to attempt to curb gun owners’ rights and ignore criminals that break the law."

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