Although signs are apparent that Americans are buying guns at a more normal rate than last year, data from last month shows the rate to still be in the seven-figure territory. 
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System saw 2,533,096 checks initiated in January 2022, a significant 40.9 percent decrease from the unadjusted FBI NICS figure of 4,288,240 in January 2021, a month fueled by concerns over the inauguration of President Biden. However, when last January is overlooked, the rate falls into line with previous years. 

The National Shooting Sports Foundation sifted through the data from last month, carving away those associated with gun permit checks and rechecks by states that use NICS for that purpose, to produce a more dependable 1,190,856 checks involving over-the-counter gun sales. Like the unadjusted data, it is about a 40 percent drop from last January but is on par with those for January 2020 and is in the top five Januarys on record since NICS started in 1998.

NSSF Gun Sales for January 2022
The 23 previous Januarys show that last month is a big drop from 2021, but on par with 2020. (ChartL NSSF)

Importantly, January 2021 marks the 30th month in a row that has exceeded 1 million adjusted background checks in a single month and ranks as the fifth strongest for the month of January. 

"The firearm industry is coming off two record-setting years of firearm purchases and sustained production to meet that increased demand," said Mark Oliva, public affairs director for NSSF. "While everyone is looking for what the 'new' normal will be coming off those outsized years of background checks for the purchase of a gun, January’s figure of nearly 1.2 million shows that America’s demand for lawful gun ownership continues at a healthy and sustainable pace."

Of note, the true number of guns sold nationwide is likely higher. It should be noted that NICS numbers do not include private gun sales in most states or cases where a carry permit is used as an alternative 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 image: Checking out Kalashnikov USA items at SHOT Show 2022 in Las Vegas (Photo: Chris Eger/

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