A visual display: Just how high are firearms sales climbing?

By Mike Budzynski

On the April 5th, 2009 I had the chance to attend the Buckeye Blast at the Tactical Defense Institute (TDI) for a great day of shooting and getting to know fellow gun enthusiast. Inevitably, when you get more than two gun owners together, the debate over polymer frames vs. steel frames, manufactures, and caliber are sure to raise a few friendly disagreements that we all take in stride. However, there was one thing everyone agreed on, and that was the fear and uncertainty for the future of gun owners.

It will come as no surprise to regular readers at BuckeyeFirearms.org that gun and ammunition sales are at an all-time high, thanks to the new administration. Shortages of ammunition are commonplace, and anyone that "thinks" about buying that new gun are surprised to learn that it is sold and gone when they come back the next day.

Even though several new highly restrictive bills have been introduced, there doesn't seem to be any interest in banning anything...for now. I am sure the 1994 Democrat loss of the House and Senate still haunts many in Congress, and they don't want to lose the 2010 mid-terms or pass anti-gun bills until they pass more of their agenda. How long it will last is a matter of speculation, and that fear is driving a buying frenzy that is unmatched in previous years.

What kind of numbers are we talking about? Never one to accept the media reports at face value I decided to do a little research myself and went to the FBI NICS website to see what kind of numbers we are talking about. What I found, directly comparing previous years against the last 7 months, was amazing.

The web site contains a great deal of information that details all of the checks since the program,s inception in 1998. If you are curious, there have been 99,802,067 checks performed on both long guns and handguns, but this number doesn't accurately reflect the total number of guns sold, because buyers can purchase multiple guns on a single Form 4473. (Update: NICS just announced the 100 millionth instant background check since the inception of NICS 10 years ago.)

What is missing from this website is a chart or graph that breaks down the information into a pictorial view comparing the different years. So I decided to make them myself! I took their numbers and created an Excel spreadsheet. Not only was what I found amazing, but what was even more stunning is where the guns are being sold.

The first chart (links to all charts provided below) shows a year-by-year comparison of the NICS date stacked on top of each other. I excluded 1998, because the checks started in November and the numbers were very low (around 21,000 the first month). In a typical year the March sales spike briefly, then increase around August and peak in December for the holidays and then drop back to a lower level in January.

The second chart is a year-by-year graphical depiction of that pattern. The peak in November 1999 was at the culmination of the Bush/Gore election, and overall sales begun to increase again in 2006 when the Democrats took control of both house of Congress.

The last chart is information I haven't seen anywhere else. I took the FBI numbers and added the state population (includes all age groups) to the chart. If you divide the total population by the total checks you get a clear picture of who is buying the mostguns, and then sort them from lowest to highest.

Our neighbors in Kentucky seem to be on a buying frenzy, because they are conducting 1 check for every 8.28 people, that is a whopping 515,453 checks! To put this in perspective, the freedom-loving citizens of Wyoming are next only 1 in 35 or 15,194 checks.

How does Ohio weigh in? We drop to a dismal 38 on the list of states and territories with 1 check for every 100 people, or 114,294 checks. To match Kentucky, Ohio would need to have just over 1.3 million checks over the same period.

Who made the bottom of the list? Despite the Heller ruling, the District of Columbia had a rate of 1 in every 5191 people or only 114 NICS checks. The Mariana Islands is last, but then again in the 10 years of NICS, they have had a total of 290 checks.

Will the numbers drop back in April, or will they continue to rise through the summer? One thing is certain - the only portion of the economy that doesn't seem to be in trouble is firearm, ammunition, and firearm accessory sales. Only time will tell if these trends continue but one thing is for sure right now – if you want to buy that hi-cap XD pistol you saw in the dealer's case today, it may not be there tomorrow.

Annual Sales Comparisons (.pdf)

Year by Year Graph (.pdf)

State by State numbers (.pdf)

Mike Budzynski is a NRA Certified Firearms Instructor and a southwest Ohio volunteer for Buckeye Firearms Association.

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