The number of gun sale background checks on Black Friday declined nearly 8% this year, although it was the fourth-highest one-day total on record in 2020.
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National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) reported 186,645 checks on the shopping holiday, a slight drop from the same day a year ago when 202,465 checks were conducted, according to the FBI. The numbers on Black Friday represent a slight decrease from Black Friday in 2019.
Background checks are the key barometer of gun sales, but the FBI’s monthly figures also incorporate checks for permits that some states require to carry a firearm. Each background check also could be for the sale of more than one gun.
Firearm sales traditionally increase during presidential election years, fueled by fears among gun owners that the next president could restrict their rights. But this year has seen a series of previously unheard-of numbers largely associated with the coronavirus pandemic, a subsequent economic recession, a deep political divide and civil unrest.
In fact, 2020 had set historic records for gun sales. Within the first seven months of the tumultuous year, gun sales had already matched those in all of 2019, according to Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting.
“[T]he firearms market continues at its far accelerated pace,” said SAAF’s chief economist, Jurgen Brauer. “Our estimates suggest that the market for the first seven months of 2020 now has nearly matched that of the entire year of 2019.”
Over 3.9 million background checks were conducted in June alone, which was the most since the system was created in November 1998 to ensure felons and other prohibited people could not buy or possess a firearm.
Some first-time buyers said that with the country "on edge,” it was the right time to make the purchase.
However, some gun control advocates worried that those buying a gun for personal safety may not have enough training to handle or store it correctly.
“I’m extremely concerned about those people who, in this time of uncertainty and fear, have been sold on the gun industry narrative that in uncertain times, when you’re feeling out of control, your possession of a firearm will satisfy that fear,” said David Chipman, senior policy director for the Giffords gun control group.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.