Americans Flocked to Gun Stores on Black Friday

Holiday surge comes after Biden victory

A gun store in Utah / Getty Images
December 1, 2020

Americans rushed to gun stores in record numbers in the aftermath of the 2020 election and over the Thanksgiving weekend.

This year's Black Friday saw the fourth most gun-related background checks in a single day since 1998, according to data released by the FBI. Five of the top 10 busiest single days in the history of the background-check system have occurred in 2020, which has already set the record for most gun sales in a year. November overwhelmed gun stores, leading up to one of the busiest shopping days of the year. About 1.8 million background checks were processed in the first two weeks of November as Joe Biden pulled in front of President Trump in vote tallies.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gunmakers and dealers, said Biden's election performance drove Americans back to the gun counter even after unprecedented sales surges in March and June.

"I think that people are looking at the Biden gun-control plan, at what he said he wants to do," Mark Oliva, a spokesman for the group, told the Washington Free Beacon. "People are concerned and they're buying firearms and want to buy while they can still buy them."

Oliva pointed to Biden's plan to ban new and online sales of popular guns and his gun-registration-and-tax-scheme, which is estimated to cost upward of $34 billion, as motivating factors for many buyers.

Rex McClanahan, president of—one of the largest gun dealers in the country—said his company had better sales than in previous years. He credited the election for helping to drive sales through the online store.
"We did see a surge on Black Friday," he told the Free Beacon. "I do believe the election is playing some part in the current surge."

Gun-rights advocates are pinning their hopes of stopping Biden's gun-control push on the Georgia runoffs, which will decide control of Senate for the next two years. The National Rifle Association has already begun pushing hundreds of thousands of dollars into the state to support pro-gun Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who favor new gun-control laws. Winning just one of the two races would give Republicans a majority and could hamstring most of Biden's gun-control efforts.

Oliva also said looking at just Black Friday's numbers may be underestimating the sales over the holiday weekend, as the industry has made a concerted effort to spread sales out over three days to keep the National Instant Criminal Background Check System from being overwhelmed. He said the 2020 Black Friday holiday weekend as a whole saw more sales than previous years, with higher single-day sales up more than 4 percent compared to last year. That's because of a 65 percent Cyber Monday increase despite slightly slower sales on Black Friday.

The Black Friday background-check numbers released by the FBI are widely considered a reliable analog for gun sales. The agency warns that they are not one-to-one representations of gun sales for several reasons, however.

Gun sales tend to fluctuate in a seasonal pattern, with fall and winter months seeing increased sales in comparison to a lull in summer. Oliva said seasonal factors, such as the hunting season and Christmas gift giving, likely contributed to the strong Black Friday sales but that the added motivation of civil unrest and concern about the election pushed sales to a new level.

"All these things are converging together to give us unprecedented numbers," he said.