Record-Breaking Gun Sales Continue Through February

Tenth month in a row to set a record


Record breaking gun sales continued once again in the month of February.

There were 2,613,074 firearms-related background checks performed by the FBI over the 29 days in February, a record for the month. February is now the ninth month in a row that has seen a record number of checks. The month saw fewer checks than the single-month record set in December 2015, but also saw an increase in checks over last month.

This February’s numbers bested the previous record, set in 2013, by more than 300,000 checks. In the first two months of 2016, there were 5,158,876 checks run through the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System. That’s more than half the 10,036,933 checks run in all of 2006, just a decade ago.

This year is a continuation of a record-setting trend, which began in 2015. February 2016 is the tenth month in a row to set a record. 2015 also holds the all-time record for background checks in a single year.

FBI background checks are considered a reliable gauge of how many guns have been sold in a given period of time. All gun sales made through federally licensed gun dealers must include a background check. Some states also require all sales between private parties to include a background check.

However, for a number of reasons, background checks are not a one-to-one metric of gun sales. Many states do not require checks on sales between private parties. Other states use the checks in situations where a gun is not sold, such as gun carry permit applications. And, under certain circumstances, a single check can be used during the sale of multiple firearms.

The continuing sales spike comes in the wake of President Obama’s efforts to impose new forms of gun control through a number of executive actions. The most consequential of those actions was touted by the administration as a plan to require even somebody who sold merely one firearm to obtain a Federal Firearms License was widely reported by the press, though the official guidance later issued by the ATF was at odds with what administration officials had said.

Further executive action from Democrats in Virginia received a lot of attention at the national level when the attorney general announced a plan to unilaterally eliminate the state’s gun carry agreements with most other states. The backlash resulted in a deal to expand Virginia’s gun carry recognition rather than curtail it. That deal was signed into law at the end of February.

The Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, has also continued to champion stricter gun control policies on the campaign trail throughout 2015 and the beginning of 2016. Clinton has said she would consider Australian-style gun confiscation for the United States and that she believes the Supreme Court is “wrong” on the Second Amendment.

Gun rights advocates, such as the Second Amendment Foundation’s Alan Gottlieb, view the sales records as a direct result of politician’s attacks on gun rights.

“The more gun rights are attacked, the more people are going to buy firearms and ammunition,” he said. “It is like the law of gravity. It will not change.”

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 His twitter handle is @StephenGutowski.

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