Record gun sales in January after Capitol insurrection

Violent effort to overturn election result and start of Biden presidency both thought to have contributed to spike

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 03 February 2021 17:00

Related video: Militias and gun rights protesters gather in Richmond ahead of Inauguration Day

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More than 2m guns were sold in January, a new record for that month. Both the Capitol riot and the start of Joe Biden's presidency are thought to have contributed to the spike. Mr Biden promised to tighten gun control legislation during the campaign.

Sales increased 75 per cent compared to January 2020 when 1.2m guns were sold. According to the gun industry trade organisation National Shooting Sports Federation, three of the top ten weeks for FBI instant criminal background checks were in January 2021. According to figures from the FBI, over 4.3m firearms background checks were initiated last month. 

Those concerned about gun rights tend to buy more firearms whenever a Democrat is elected to the White House, worried that a new president is going to clamp down on gun violence and enforce stricter gun control laws. Gun sales surged both when Barack Obama was elected in 2008 and after he was re-elected in 2012.

Mark Oliva, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Federation, told CNN that those who are worried about gun rights are "going to act while they can to be able to buy what they want". Mr Oliva said that Mr Biden's talk of banning AR-15 rifles and requiring gun owners to register their firearms have made some gun owners worried about being able to buy weapons and ammunition.

"It can't be discounted that many of these background checks for the purchase of a firearm are attributed to threats by the Biden administration to enact the most radical and far-reaching gun control agenda ever proposed," Mr Oliva said.

The National Shooting Sports Federation published an article on Wednesday that said in part: "President Joe Biden is making good on one part of his ‘unity’ pledge. He’s getting the band back together to sing to America why he wants more gun control. The problem is he’s out of tune with America."

Read more: Follow live updates on the Biden administration

According to Gallup, a majority of Americans, 57 per cent, said they wanted stricter gun control laws in an October 2020 poll. Only 9 per cent said they thought the laws should be less strict.

The owner of Wex Gunworks in Delray Beach, Florida told CNN that gun sales at his store have increased dramatically since the pandemic took hold, and spiked in the weeks ahead of Mr Biden's inauguration. Brandon Wexler, 51, said "I think that there was fear of social unrest because of the supporters on both sides of the fence. Fear increased demand. Demand increased sales."

"Obama was the best gun salesman in the country. Covid was the next best. And now I think Joe Biden is going to be the ultimate gun salesman," Mr Wexler said.

Over five million people bought guns for the first time in 2020, 40 per cent of them women, a surge caused by the pandemic, civil unrest and political division.

The number of firearms background checks initiated through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) came close to 40m in 2020, compared to around 28m in 2019, according to figures from the FBI.

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