By Larry Keane
It turns out President Joe Biden is seeing more guns being sold in his first year than his two White House predecessors. For all his intent to hobble the firearm industry and clamp down on lawful gun ownership, gun sales have been good. Really good. December’s NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) figures for 2021 put the annual total over 18.5 million. That’s higher than any year that President Barack Obama was in the White House
Presidential Gun Sales
Law-abiding Americans purchased firearms in substantial numbers to finish out 2021. NSSF-adjusted NICS totals for December came in at nearly 1.8 million. That’s good for the second-highest December total, only 6 percent lower than 2020’s record final month. That figure also brings the total adjusted number to 18.5 million background checks for a gun sale. NSSF adjusts the total NICS numbers released by FBI to reflect only those background checks associated with the sale or transfer of a firearm.
The FBI’s unadjusted December 2021 total for NICS background checks landed just north of 3 million at 3,080,295. The December total means that over the 12-month span of President Biden’s first year in office, 38,858,429 NICS checks were run for law-abiding Americans, nearly dead even with the total for first-year NICS checks for former Republican President Donald Trump and former Democratic President Barack Obama, combined. That total was 39 million.
The most antigun presidential ticket ever has yielded the greatest gun sales first-year presidential term ever. It’s no surprise gun control groups are feeling disheartened.
Selling Control, Delivering Sales
That’s likely not the first year accomplishment on guns for which President Biden was hoping. He took office with a U.S. House of Representatives and Senate swinging to Democratic control. He sold a daring gun control agenda on the campaign trail. National gun control groups’ mouths watered and they had high hopes for big things.
The American people had other ideas. Americans took stock of their safety concerns as they witnessed first-hand the policy failures of defunding law enforcement and releasing or failing to prosecute criminals. That resulted in the decision of tens of millions over the past year to take responsibility for their own security and safety. This included more than 8.4 million first-time gun buyers in 2020 and more than 3.2 million in the first half of 2021. The dramatic shift in Americans’ Second Amendment beliefs, along with the growing reality that gun control doesn’t reduce crime, meant President Biden’s gun control agenda ran headlong into the reality of tens of millions lawfully buying guns.
The failures to enact a gun control utopia have led to national gun control groups voicing their disappointment and displeasure with the president’s track record, but it’s the American people who have rejected their gun control schemes.
The confluence of several concerning trends in 2020 led to more than 21 million Americans buying a firearm, the highest yearly total ever. As 2021 came to an end, the total of 18.5 million was slightly lower, but that is over 5 million greater than it was in 2019. It’s also a figure that indicates Americans embrace their right to keep and bear arms.
Combined with the growing and diversifying gun-owning community, there are several reasons to believe the higher numbers from last year and 2020 are more indicative of a new normal, rather than outliers. There have been peaks before and the market settles out. A study of those trends over time shows that the new floor is usually higher than the ceiling was prior to the run-up to the peak. In this case, 2019 saw 13.2 million background checks for gun sales. The 2021 total of 18.5 million is a very strong number.
For President Biden, it likely means three more years of inability to restrict the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans. It also means the president will watch as Americans reject his gun control agenda and vote with their wallets – tens of millions at a time.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.