Gun Buyers Shatter NICS Background Check Record Amid COVID-19 Panic

Gun stores have been slammed as people panic-buy in the wake of COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

President Barack Obama may still be the greatest gun salesman of all time, but this year’s novel coronavirus is threatening to surpass him.

The number of gun-related background checks conducted in a single month exceeded 3.7 million in March, shattering the previous record of 2.9 million set in December of 2019. Prior to December, the most background checks conducted in a single month (2.7 million) occurred in December of 2012 after Obama won a second term in the White House.

The numbers come from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is used for all gun purchases conducted through a federally licensed firearms dealer. Because some states allow guns to be purchased without a background check from a private seller or using a concealed carry card, the NICS data is not a perfect measure of gun sales. It does, however, back up the anecdotal evidence suggesting a rise in gun sales in the wake of COVID-19.

SEE ALSO: Over 160 New Jersey Police Officers Test Positive for COVID-19

Gun buyers in the United States reported long lines and empty shelves at firearms dealers across the country as Americans prepare to defend themselves against possible civil unrest caused by the novel coronavirus. Many also wonder whether overworked and understaffed police departments will be able to respond effectively to the possible increase in crime.

The NICS numbers do not indicate how many buyers had already passed gun-related background checks, but stories have been circulating widely that many gun buyers are first-time owners.

Gun-related news outlets like GunsAmerica have published tutorials directed at new gun owners who cannot attend gun safety classes due to shelter-in-place orders.

The anti-gun lobby, by contrast, has done nothing to help this new gun-owning population beyond decrying the work of the National Rifle Association.

“Decades of NRA lobbying have created deadly loopholes in our background check laws, and now, thanks to the gun lobby’s fear-mongering, a surge in gun sales threatens to overload the system completely,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.

SEE ALSO: Inmates Released to Protect Against COVID-19 Already Committing Murder

“Adding more guns into the mix during a deadly pandemic won’t make anyone safer, but it will make the gun lobby richer,” added Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “This spike in gun sales is deeply concerning, particularly for the millions of children unexpectedly at home with unsecured guns, women sheltering in place with abusers, and anyone struggling economically and psychologically. Stockpiling guns and ammo during this crisis puts communities at even greater risk of harm.”

Meanwhile, pro-gun groups are working to ensure that gun stores remain open even during the COVID-19 shutdown. Thanks to efforts by the Second Amendment Foundation and others, a number of states and localities have reversed previous decisions to close gun shops. The Department of Homeland Security also issued guidance that deemed gun store employees “essential” during the crisis.

“We are witnessing what amounts to an epiphany for many Americans during this crisis, as they remember what the Second Amendment is about,” Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb said. “Those who think suspending a constitutional right is acceptable because a virus is a health threat are truly mixing the proverbial apples and oranges to suit their own agendas.”

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About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over six years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Tyler. Got a hot tip? Send him an email at

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Mauser6863 April 6, 2020, 10:16 am

    “Adding more guns into the mix during a deadly pandemic won’t make anyone safer, but it will make the gun lobby richer,” added Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action.

    Well the same governments that is forcing us all to commit economic suicide, are releasing dangerous inmates, who are committing crimes, including murder.

    I can’t think of a better time to be a responsible gun owner. In fact I would wager that the reason for the NICS records, is precisely because most of these buyers are “New” and don’t have a CCW, that would exempt them from the Federal Background Check.

    Every Cloud has a silver lining. Now we just need to get those folks trained properly in safe handling, shooting and maintenance of firearms. Kinda hard to do, as we are all locked down.

    • Gray Ghost April 6, 2020, 3:57 pm


      I could not agree more. A coworker and I were discussing how instead of chiding these “new gun owners” about what they think of their 2A rights now…we should welcome to the family. I know that NSSF and others are trying to get information out there but wish there was a way for noobs to connect with more experienced owners to get tips and hints to aid increasing their confidence and competence with their new firearm.

  • Shan April 4, 2020, 5:26 pm

    So here is what pisses me off. I live in California and a couple of my Democrat friends, who know I am a gun guy, asked me the other day…. What gun should I buy? What caliber? What ammo? Etc…. I told them what I suggested, offered to take them out shooting too.
    So one of them comes up to me yesterday and starts complaining about how he cannot get an AR 15 in California. He can’t get the new Glock he wanted, only can have a ten round magazine, He was really pissed off when he was told that it would be a ten day waiting period. Also he wouldn’t even be able to purchase a firearm anyway because he didn’t have a “ Real ID “ yet.
    So I guess what I’m getting at is take responsibility for who you vote for. These guys always used to argue with me about how I dont need that or whatever and how Democrats were so great and Trump bad. Now they complain about their second amendment and other liberties.
    Give me a freeken break.

    • Mauser6863 April 6, 2020, 10:26 am

      I lived in California all my life, until the last 7 years of heaven in my new home, Arizona. When I was behind enemy lines in the People’s Republic, I have seen this same behavior in every riot/panic/gun ban. I worked part time at 2 different gun stores and the story was always the same.

      The Liberals who support all these laws advocate and argue that “They are Good People” and “They Need a gun NOW, to protect themselves and their family” They are offended and insulted that the law applies to them.

      I have been offered bribes to break the law by most of them and always said, “No”. I would always tell them, that you created this situation and NOW you have to live with your decisions. Too bad, so sad, the LAW is the LAW, etc. Most wouldn’t go through the process and went to Walmart to get a baseball bat or a big knife/ax,
      or simply went home and hid under the covers, LOL.

      F-’em all.

  • Kristi Edwards April 3, 2020, 11:33 am

    As a retail gun shop, having the merchandise to sell is far more essential than staying open.

    The run on ammunition and firearms seen recently is no different than the people hoarding toilet paper, etc. Those who are unprepared to begin with.

    Sorry but there is no excuse. We have been through this before. Why did it take a virus wake them up!?!!

  • Rangemaster11B April 3, 2020, 10:40 am

    Which means, for every one of us that would be buying a gun, there are two more with a sudden need to defend their toilet paper hoard.

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