Last month was the highest April in terms of federal background checks for gun transfers since the system was established over two decades ago.

The unadjusted data of 3,485,016 checks conducted through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System for April 2021 is a 21.1 percent jump from the unadjusted FBI NICS figure of 2,878,176 in April 2020.

When the data is filtered by the National Shooting Sports Foundation to remove figures for gun permit checks by states which use NICS for that purpose, the number of checks stands at 1,694,118, which is a slim increase of about 1 percent compared to the April 2020 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,678,223. While that sounds uninspiring, keep in mind that last April was by far a record for the program, meaning that even a small increase beyond that is significant when compared to past buying patterns. 

When stacked against previous Aprils going back to 1999, the past two years have seen phenomenal growth in estimated firearm sales. (Graph: NSSF)

"NSSF’s Adjusted National Instant Criminal Background of nearly 1.7 million background checks in April was the strongest April on record and is on pace with the background checks that we’ve seen for more than a year," said Mark Oliva, the trade organization's director of public affairs. "April marked 13 months of elevated firearm sales which have ranged between 1.5 million and 2 million each month. Firearm sales spiked in March 2020 and have remained at unprecedented levels since. It’s a remarkable feat of firearm manufacturers to keep pace with this blistering demand." 

Oliva says firearm sales remain elevated on two distinct concerns. 

"Americans are buying firearms for concerns for personal safety and for White House and Congressional efforts to limit and deny the ability to purchase certain firearms," he said. "The continued gun control statements by President Biden, many of which have been fact-checked and debunked as false, are driving sales."

Going past the data from the FBI, the actual number of guns sold across the country is probably higher. The figures do not include private gun sales in most states or in cases where a carry permit is used as alternatives to the background check requirements of the 1994 Brady law which allows the transfer of a firearm over the counter by a federal firearms license holder without first performing a NICS check. Over 20 states accept personal concealed carry permits or licenses as Brady exemptions.

Banner photo: Glock G43 in the Vault

revolver barrel loading graphic