While statistics on the number of coronavirus cases have widely made the rounds since March, another set of statistics have reached record highs this year: the number of firearm background checks and, implicitly, gun sales.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) releases monthly statistics on the number of background checks run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is used for gun purchases and License to Carry (LTC) applications in the state of Texas.
Both statewide and nationally, the number of NICS checks declined from July, but set new records for the month of August — 188,000 and 3.1 million, respectively.
Previous August records were 135,000 in 2018 for Texas, and 2.2 million in 2016 for the country.
The state and nation showed similar trends by breakdown of checks for permits, handgun purchases, and long gun purchases.
While permits and handgun purchases still make up the bulk of checks, both of those categories declined from July, while the number of checks for long gun purchases increased — likely due in part to the September 1 open of dove season.
Checks in Texas on LTC applications declined from 58,000 to 50,000, handgun purchases declined from 97,000 to 78,000, and long gun purchases increased from 41,000 to 44,000.
Nationally, new permit checks declined from 621,000 to 584,000, handgun checks declined from 1.1 million to 952,000, and long gun checks increased from 558,000 to 579,000.
Another 817,000 permit rechecks were done in states that require frequent background checks on existing concealed carry license holders.
Gun sales this year skyrocketed in March amidst the coronavirus pandemic and government lockdowns, saw a slight decline in April and May, and picked back up in June and July amidst the protests and violent riots across the country and rising COVID-19 numbers.
Although the number of background checks in August has set new records, the decline from July bucks recent trends.
In a typical year, checks slow down in the summer and then pick back up going into August and the fall months.
But 2020 has been far from typical.
With the pandemic, lockdowns, riots, and presidential election, more people have been primed to pull the trigger on new gun purchases, putting both Texas and the country on track to well surpass the previous yearly records on NICS checks.
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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.