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The number of gun sales and background checks completed in President Joe Biden's first year in office is nearing the combined numbers done during the first years for former Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama.
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Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF), a research firm that uses the NICS database to estimate gun sales, provided data to Newsweek, which shows 18,005,229 gun sales from January through November of this year. The firm estimated that by the end of the year there will be about 20 million total gun sales.
While speaking with Newsweek, Jurgen Brauer, the chief economist for SAAF, explained that the research firm makes adjustments to the NICS numbers by using surveys, a specific algorithm and conducting interviews with retailers and wholesalers. Brauer noted that some states make gun owners complete background checks on a monthly basis even if they didn't recently purchase a gun, which is why the total number of gun sales differs from the total number of background checks completed by the FBI.
Brauer told Newsweek that in 2020, gun sales and background checks spiked amid the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the civil unrest following the police killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests. According to data released by the FBI, there were also 4,901 additional homicides recorded in 2020, compared with the previous year.
Gun sales and background checks then rose again shortly after Biden took office in 2021, following the January 6 riots at the Capitol and Biden's calls for stricter gun legislation on the two-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting in February.
Gunmakers saw top-line benefits in recent years as Americans experienced feelings of insecurity and instability during the pandemic, protests over police killings of unarmed Black people, and the 2020 presidential election. But the past year has seen gun sales fall precipitously as demand wanes.
American Outdoor Brands and Vista Outdoor have reported weaker sales in their shooting categories of late. Sturm, Ruger & Company, the largest publicly traded gunmaker in the U.S. by market value, reported a 28% year-over-year drop in net sales for fiscal third quarter, reporting $139.4 million, down from $178.2 million in the same period in 2021.
NSSF warns background checks aren't a perfect equivalent to new ownership because not all background checks are associated with individual sales of new guns, but they're the best barometer of yearly sales trends. The organization has tracked the data since 2000.
Gunmaker Smith & Wesson reported second-quarter net sales of $121 million, a decrease of 47.5% from the same quarter last year. However, the company added that those results are still 6.4% higher than the comparable quarter in fiscal 2020, pre-pandemic. Smith & Wesson did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment. The company is set to report its next batch of quarterly results March 2.
In a December conference call with investors, Smith & Wesson CEO Mark Smith said despite firearm sales reaching "more normal demand levels," the company's business model is "specifically designed for this" and has "effectively managed through these cycles before."
American Outdoor Brands reported quarterly net sales were $54.4 million, a decrease of $16.3 million, or 23.1%, compared with net sales of $70.8 million for the same quarter last year, "resulting primarily from reduced demand in the shooting sports category."
Despite the drop in sales, Oliva said the "floor of this new market" remains "higher than the ceiling" of the last market. He said much of the losses seen now are likely to be recovered during the next surge in sales, which he said may come during the 2024 presidential election. 041b061a72