Businesses that regularly sell firearms are required to process background checks through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
While background checks are not mandated for License to Carry (LTC) holders and not every NICS check equates to a gun sale, the statistic is an indication of the number of guns being purchased.
That total is the fourth highest record for the state, just behind March’s high of 274,211 and approximately 240,000 checks conducted in the Decembers of 2012 and 2014.
While the NICS checks conducted in March may be the highest on record, June’s numbers represented a larger increase compared to the same months as last year.
In Texas, March 2020 saw a notable 94 percent increase in checks from March 2019, but June 2020 saw a 123 percent increase from June 2019.
Nationally, NICS checks have followed a similar trend. March 2020 was up by 41 percent over the same month last year, while June was up by 70 percent.
Several factors could have played a role in the dramatic increase in gun sales this year.
Texas gun store owners saw a surge in demand for firearms and ammunition during the second weekend in March when local governments began to mandate lockdowns and oil prices were plummeting.
Many Texans may have purchased a gun for self-defense in the wake of the national chaos that erupted after the killing of George Floyd, since many violent, Marxist groups like Antifa have taken advantage of the tense political climate.
Being an election year is also a notable factor. Although no single month in 2016 reached a record high for the number of NICS checks in Texas, the year as a whole is the highest on record.
With the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, stating that he would have former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke help him lead on the issue of gun control, conservative Texans are likely concerned about a potential Biden victory in November.
After O’Rourke — a former congressman from El Paso — made headlines for saying, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” many rural counties across the state began declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries.”
Regardless of gun-buyers’ motivations, the state is on track to surpass the record number of checks conducted in 2016 with less than 600,000 needed to match that year’s high.
Since gun sellers in the state conducted 123,000 checks on average per month last year, it would take a dramatic decline in sales to avoid a new annual record.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.