More Guns Have Been Sold in 2016 Than Any Year in History

Trump election does not slow gun sales

A man works in his gun shop in Maine

A man works in his gun shop in Maine / AP

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More gun-related FBI background checks were done in 2016 than in any other year in history after November set yet another record for gun sales in the United States.

So far this year, the FBI has processed 24,767,514 checks through its National Instant Criminal Background Check System, known as NICS, which puts 2016 more than 160,000 checks above the yearly record set in 2015. The record comes after November 2016 set its own monthly record with 2,561,281 checks, nearly 320,000 more than the previous record set last November. This gun sales spike has lasted for over a year and resulted in monthly records for 19 straight months.

November's record comes as the firearms industry is beginning its seasonal upswing with millions of Americans purchasing firearms in the lead up to the holiday season. That upswing is likely to add to 2016's record because December has traditionally seen the highest number of NICS checks for the year.

"Reports of the industry’s demise were greatly exaggerated by the liberal anti-gun media," Larry Keane, the National Shooting Sports Foundation's senior vice president, said of the new record.

The number of checks processed through the FBI's system is generally considered one of the strongest indicators of gun sales in the United States because nearly all sales made through federally licensed firearms dealers require a NICS check. However, the number of NICS checks made in a given period of time is not a perfect representation of the number of guns actually sold in that same period of time for a number of reasons. Many states don't require NICS checks on sales between private sellers on the used market. Licensed dealers can also sell multiple guns on a single NICS check. Some states use NICS checks in the application process for gun carry permits.

"These statistics represent the number of firearm background checks initiated through the NICS," the FBI said of its monthly NICS check report. "They do not represent the number of firearms sold. Based on varying state laws and purchase scenarios, a one-to-one correlation cannot be made between a firearm background check and a firearm sale."

Gun rights activists have long attributed the string of record setting months to advocacy by leading Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and President Obama, for new gun control measures. In the wake of Hillary Clinton's defeat at the polls by Donald Trump, who most view as pro-gun, many believed gun sales would begin to recede.

"I'm not surprised by this being a huge year for gun sales because of Obama's disdain for gun rights and threats of more gun control over the years," Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said. "But, part of that sales record is also the threat of terrorism, actual acts of terrorism on American soil, rising racial violence, riots and violence because of political hatred, and even attacks on police.

"THOSE issues have not yet changed because Trump has been elected and may be mitigated by Trump, but probably not totally eliminated."

Stephen Gutowski   Email Stephen | Full Bio | RSS
Stephen Gutowski is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He founded his own site as a junior in college and has been writing about news and politics since that time. He spent 4 years with the Media Research Center and was most recently with the Capitol City Project. His email address is Gutowski@FreeBeacon.com. His twitter handle is @StephenGutowski.