Last month was the highest number of NSSF-adjusted NICS checks for the month of August in the past 21 years. (Graphic: NSSF)

Licensed gun dealers in the U.S. saw their sales continue to skyrocket last month as suggested by a huge jump in federal firearm background checks.

The unadjusted figures of 3,085,227 checks conducted through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System in August 2020 is a 31.8 percent jump from the unadjusted FBI NICS figure of 2,341,363 logged in August 2019.

However, when the data is adjusted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation by removing figures for gun permit checks and rechecks by states which use NICS for that purpose, the number of checks stands at 1,684,083 which is an increase of 51.2 percent compared to the August 2019 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,113,535.

The figure is the highest for any August in the NICS program's history and is the latest chapter in a surge in checks over most of this year. 

A continued climb

"Each month since April, adjusted NICS figures averaged between 1.6 and 1.8 million," Mark Oliva, public affairs director of the NSSF, told "August’s figures are a record-high for the month over all previous years and show us that concerns for personal safety and self-defense continue to remain a priority for law-abiding Americans."

Oliva says the sustained pace of firearm sales proves that law-abiding Americans are turning out by the millions to exercise their right to keep and bear arms. 

"News reports of violent attacks, riots, looting are coupled with calls to defund police continue," said Oliva. "NSSF estimates that nearly 5 million of these firearm purchases were made by people who never previously owned a firearm. Americans are witnessing gun control politicians refuse to enforce penalties on violent criminals while at the same time actively working to deny those who obey the law the ability to protect themselves. These sales figures are proof that Americans refuse to be compliant victims to violent criminals who prey on the most vulnerable of our society."

Meanwhile, gun control advocates remain baffled as to the recent surge in ownership.

"Gun sales have been surging since the pandemic began, so it’s impossible to identify the exact reason for this month’s sales,” said Rob Wilcox, deputy director of policy and strategy at Everytown.  

Numbers sold likely a good bit higher

It should be noted that the true number of guns sold across the country is likely higher than what NICS figures suggest. The data does not include private gun sales in most states or 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.

Some 25 states accept personal concealed carry permits, licenses or similar documentation as Brady exemptions.

Bigger demand for training

The U.S. Concealed Carry Association said this week there also continues to be an unprecedented surge in those seeking self-defense training and education resources. The USCCA now counts some 450,000 members after experiencing what they say is an all-time record month of membership sales in June with July.

“It speaks volumes that during these uncertain times, record numbers of Americans are embracing their Second Amendment rights and choosing to be the protectors for their families, friends, and neighbors,” said Tim Schmidt, president and founder of the USCCA. “But more importantly, people are not turning a blind eye to the incredible responsibility that comes with owning a firearm. We are encouraged by the surge in membership we’re seeing and an unprecedented demand for training, education, and legal protection for American gun owners across the country.”

To help meet the demand for gun education, many in the gun industry are stepping up to help impart knowledge to the growing legion of some 5 million new first-time gun owners. For example, Smith & Wesson has been releasing a steady stream of free online videos as part of what Big Blue calls their GUNSMARTS program covering everything from the basic rules of gun safety to firearms manipulation.


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