Story and Chart From Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting
Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF) estimates September 2020 U.S. firearms unit sales at 1.8 million units, a year-over-year increase of 66% from September 2019. Likely single handgun sales (0.98 million) increased year-over-year by 81% whereas single long-gun sales (0.66 million) increased year-over-year by 51%. All other likely background check-related sales (0.13 million) increased year-over-year by 50%. This includes so-called “multiple” sales where the exact split between handguns and long-guns cannot be determined from the data record.
SAAF’s firearms unit sales estimates are based on raw data taken from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), adjusted for checks unlikely to be related to end-user firearms sales. For example, the FBI’s raw numbers (for September, some 2,857,953) cannot be taken at face value as large numbers of background checks are unrelated to end-user sales. As a case in point, in September the state of Illinois conducted about 378,000 so-called permit checks and rechecks alone whereas end-user unit sales at firearms retailers likely amounted to about 49,000. SAAF makes certain other adjustments to the data based on retailer reports and other information; nonetheless, the estimates still likely understate the true number of sales.
SAAF Chief Economist Jurgen Brauer comments that “the 2020 year-to-date sales (January to September) now stand at 16.7 million and thereby exceed the previous annual high (January to December) set in 2016 with 16.6 million units sold. That said, the August and September in 2020 increases are the lowest since March 2020. Handgun sales continue to comfortably outpace long-gun sales.”