NICS Gun Sales December, 2021, Third Highest; 18 Million for Year


The numbers for December, 2021 National Instant background Check System (NICS), background checks conducted by the FBI, and gun sales, are in. It was the third highest December for both background checks and gun sales.

December 2015 was the highest on record for gun sales, with about 2.22 million. It was second highest for background checks, with 3.3 million. December of 2020 was next highest, with about 1.90 million gun sales, and highest with 3.9 million background checks.

In December of 2021, there were about 1.76 million gun sales, and about 3.1 million background checks.

The annual gun sales for 2021 are the second highest on record, about 18.1 million. Total background checks for 2021 are the second highest on record with about 38.9 million. 2020 had the highest total number of background checks with 39.7 million. The numbers are rounded for brevity and clarity.

The number of firearms sold through the NICS system has tended to become a smaller fraction of total NICS background checks because background checks are being used for more and more purposes outside of gun sales. The biggest use of background checks is for carry permits and carry permit rechecks. Notably, Illinois and Kentucky conduct multiple re-checks on carry permits per month. The Kentucky and Illinois permit checks account for over 700,000 NICS checks in December of 2021. 

This correspondent predicted the total NICS gun sales for 2021:

The trend is moderating. This correspondent expects the gun sales in December to be between 1.5 and 2 million firearms. The total for 2021 will be over 18 million firearms.

The trend continues to moderate. To this correspondent, the driver consists of two things: we are producing guns about as fast as we can; and ammunition production is inelastic. That is, it is very expensive and difficult to increase ammunition productive capacity. Once the manufacturing plant is operating at full capacity, 24/7, increasing capacity is a long term process which is capital intensive. It takes years to accomplish, once the decision to increase capacity is made.

Such decisions are not entered into lightly. Companies do not spend multiple millions of dollars on what may be a short term bubble of demand.

If the attempt by the left to permanently take power in the United States, through corruption and nationalization of the election process is successful, legal demand for ammunition is likely to drop, as strict controls would likely be imposed by an emboldened Leftist regime. This was the template followed by the successful attempt to overthrow the democracy in Venezuela. In addition, much of the demand appears to be due to political instability. If Conservatives are successfull in repelling the assault on the Constitutional order, then political stability is more likely. In either case, the demand for ammunition is potentially reduced.

Millions of new gun owners have been created in the United States in the last two years. Some of the demand for ammunition is likely to be permanent, barring a tremendous upheaval in the political landscape. 

Such an upheaval is a serious possibility, which keeps the current demand high.


©2021 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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