President Joe Biden has been described as the best salesman the firearms industry could have hope for – largely because every time he calls for more gun control, sales have increased. Yet, it is also clear that with just a narrow majority in both houses of Congress, little actual progress on gun control is likely to occur.
That could explain, at least in part, why the record sales may be slowing, yet at the same time, it could be too soon to suggest that the "Biden Bump" is over.
Last year saw record sales of firearms, driven first by the pandemic and national lockdowns, then by the wave of violent protests and the vocal calls to "defund the police," and most notably by the election of Biden, who campaigned on a platform that called for greater gun control measures.
The increased firearms sales in 2020 were also a reverse of the so-called "Trump Slump," which occurred during former President Donald Trump's first three years in the White House. While the former president wasn't exactly the strongest supporter of the Second Amendment, he didn't actually push too hard with new gun control measures – apart from the ban on so-called "bump stocks."
Yet, following the Obama years, when there were repeated calls for gun control, the industry saw a slowdown in sales for much of the Trump era. So much so, that Colt Firearms Manufacturing actually exited the AR consumer market to focus instead on military and law enforcement sales. The pandemic jump-started strong sales, which then truly ignited after the November elections and continued this year as Biden has made his push for gun control.
It would be impossible for record sales to continue at such a pace, in part because firearms are still essentially "durable guns" that are meant to last for years. Existing gun owners were likely to only purchase so many new guns, and can't be expected to continue to "stock up" indefinitely.
Likewise, 2020 saw a strong surge in first-time buyers – with upwards of eight million new gun owners. However, this could be a market where a single firearm or perhaps two is as many as they'll buy. Thus it was expected that sales would dip.
According to new data from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which compiles the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) numbers to determine monthly sales, June saw a twenty-two percent decline from a year prior. It was the first year-over-year decline reported in twenty-six months.
Moreover, the adjusted background checks also fell by forty-one percent from 2.18 in 2020 to 1.28 million in 2021, while year-to-date adjusted background checks via NICS were reported to be down by more than fifteen percent.
"After having been ahead of last year's record-breaking performance for the first five months of 2021, the industry looks like it may be heading into a new downturn," investing website The Motley Fool suggested on Friday.
However, the decline was still a dip not a drop off a cliff – and June 2021 still ranks as the second-highest ever for the month, only surpassed by last year. In other words, had last year not set the record, this June would have done so.
"To be clear," said Mark Oliva, spokesperson for the NSSF, "June 2021 is the second-highest June on record."
The NSSF doesn't expect the sales to fall off that cliff either but does predict that sales may not continue to set records, according to a report from The Washington Examiner.
"It cannot be discounted that the continued elevated level of increased firearm purchases is driven, in part, by the gun control overtures by the Biden administration," said Oliva. "As we head into Independence Day, Americans are exercising their right to keep and bear arms in record numbers even as the Biden administration is throwing up roadblocks to keep that from happening. These factors continue to drive the elevated levels of gun sales: the nomination of David Chipman, a gun control lobbyist to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the proposed rules to reclassify firearm receivers as well as pistols equipped with stabilizing arm braces under the National Firearms Act, and repeated calls to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). The Biden administration is determined to use every lever within reach to stifle and disrupt the free exercise of Second Amendment rights which begin with the ability of citizens who obey the law to freely approach the gun counter."
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.