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January 8, 2024

Americans Charted Record Book Year for Firearms in 2023, With 2024 Looming Large Too

By Larry Keane

Santa and his reindeer apparently got an extra workout in delivering presents this year under the tree. They were carrying around the extra weight of new firearms to millions of Americans thirsty to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

December’s firearm sales total figures are out and if The White House and gun control activists had any hope that the historic surge in gun buying from just a couple years ago was subsiding, they’re in for a rude awakening. The numbers are big, and if history is an indicator, all signs point to next year being big as well.

“These figures are a reminder of the importance law-abiding citizens place on their personal safety and freedoms, even as the Biden-Harris administration is using a ‘whole-of-government’ approach to chill and ultimately eliminate those rights,” NSSF’s Mark Oliva told media once December’s totals were announced.

Americans continue to watch violent criminals run rampant in their communities as city leaders refuse to get serious on crime and they see gun control activists instead push for more restrictions on law-abiding citizens. Given the choice between gun control and victimhood and self-defense and empowerment, it’s clear which side they’ve chosen.

Record Year

Once the dust from the end-of-the-year holiday stretch settled, the monthly figures for firearm sales for December became clear, as well as the last quarter of the year and the yearly total. It was already on pace to be a good year at the end of November.

“In November alone, sales hit the high point of the year, fueled by a historic Black Friday and growing concern that foreign-influenced terrorism would spread to the nation,” Paul Bedard wrote in Washington Examiner. December kept that trend going.

In December 2023, firearm sales totaled more than 1.7 million NSSF-Adjusted FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) verifications processed for a gun purchase and boosted the streak of more than 1 million firearm sales per month to 53 months in a row. NSSF adjusts NICS data to focus solely on firearm purchases, filtering out NICS checks processed for other non-purchase purposes like renewing firearm permits and concealed carry licenses. The December 2023 total represents a boost up from last year’s December of roughly 1.6 percent.

The 4th Quarter 2023 (October, November and December) total came in at more than 4.7 million. It represents a 4.6 percent increase in sales over Q4 2022 and the 2023 firearm sales total of nearly 15.9 million is only slightly lower than the 2022 total of 16.4 million. But it’s still a year for the record books.

“The last three months of 2023 reversed a years-long downward trend in gun-related background checks,” Stephen Gutowski wrote in The Reload. “The numbers further bolster the idea there has been a rebound in gun sales after nearly three years of continuous decline from unprecedented peaks in 2020.”

In the end, 2023 was the fourth highest year on record for firearm sales since the FBI’s NICS system was first implemented, trailing behind only 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Who’s Buying? 

Gun control activists and President Joe Biden’s strategists need to rethink their attacks on who’s buying all these firearms and why they are doing it. Their playbook is tired and inaccurate. Remember the president’s first nominee to be director at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) David Chipman mocked gun owners – especially first-time buyers – during his Congressional nomination hearing, calling them “more like Tiger King” and comparing them to apocalypse preppers and zombie hunters.

The reality though is that several million firearm buyers over the past few years, including those throughout 2023, have been Americans likely coming from all walks of life and political persuasions. NSSF survey data has shown since 2020, firearm purchases by first-time buyers hovered around 30 percent. If that rough estimate were applied to 2023’s figures, approximately 4.8 million Americans became first-time firearm owners in the last year. That’s significant.

So who’s buying? Gun owners today reflect a diverse community. African Americans continue buying firearms in large numbers, especially African American women who want to protect themselves and their children from criminal violence.

In Washington, D.C., ABC 7 News highlighted the trend in a local news report and spoke to mothers Kennette Brown and Nicole Washington about why they chose to buy a firearm.

“A lot of times men look at women and they think we are defenseless. They target us, first because they think we don’t carry. We can defend ourselves as women, we are not as weak as you think we are,” Brown said. Washington added, “With all the things going on in the world, you just want to be able to protect yourself.”

Washington, D.C., just finished 2023 with record high homicides not seen since the 1990s.

The Washington Post reported on the growing diversity among American gun owners, too. In a social media post on X, formerly Twitter, the Post wrote, “Through discreet meetups and word-of-mouth networks, LGBTQ+ gun owners are teaching their community how to arm themselves.”

NSSF has reported on this growing gun-owning community as well.

Still one of the most significant groups changing their beliefs about gun ownership and heading out to purchase firearms, including significant numbers of first-time buyers, are Jewish Americans. There is no shortage of news coverage reporting on Jewish Americans buying firearms since the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel. CNN, Fox News, NBC News, the New York Post and many others have noted the buying surge.

New York-based political strategist and Orthodox rabbi Hank Sheinkopf laid out what he has seen lately.

“The majority of Jews in the country historically have been liberal on the left, pro-gun reform, pro-gun control, opposed to personal gun ownership,” he said. “Jews with guns were always seen as an odd event. But now it seems the long-held belief that the U.S. is one place in the world where Jews were safe, is coming to an end.”

All of those typically voting constituencies may be doing some rethinking at the ballot box come next November.

Election Year 2024

If past performance is a good predictor of future behavior, 2024 will likely be another year of record firearm sales. This is especially the case given the Democratic presidential ticket of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the most anti-gun presidential ticket – and administration – in history.

In every presidential election year since 2000, yearly NSSF-adjusted firearm sales totals have been higher than the previous year, in some cases the previous few years. That goes for 2004 (higher than both 2003 and 2002), 2008 (higher than 2005, 2006 and 2007), 2012 (much higher than the previous years), 2016 (new record high) and 2020 (sky-rocketing new high).

2024 firearm sales may not reach the pandemic-era totals of 2020 and 2021, but it looks like it could easily keep the trend going by outpacing 2023.

As President Joe Biden and his administration continue their “whole of government” attack on the lawful firearm industry and continue to push more gun control while law-abiding Americans seek to protect themselves and their families, The White House could be in for a shock come November 2024.

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