The FBI has conducted in excess of 32 million background checks for gun purchases this year, the highest number on record despite the data only going through October.
Axios cited FBI data released this week that shows the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has performed 32,131,914 checks in 2020. In 2019, that figure was 28,369,750, the previous high.
It's important to note, however, that the figure represents the number of background checks performed, not the actual number of guns purchased.
It was reported last month that gun sales have soared this year during the COVID-19 pandemic and the social unrest that has gripped the nation.
Many of the people who have bought guns this year are first-time buyers; Smith & Wesson Brands CEO Mark Peter Smith said that group makes up roughly 40% of all gun buyers in 2020.
Eight of the top 10 all-time weeks for background checks have happened this year, according to NICS data that goes back to 1998. The top week came in March, when the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus crisis a pandemic. The top month this year came in June, following the late-May killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
The historically high sales are adding millions of weapons to a nation that already has more guns than people. The Geneva-based Small Arms Survey estimated the number of U.S. guns at 393 million in 2017. That dwarfed the next highest totals of 71 million in India and nearly 50 million in China — countries that both have populations four times the size of the United States.
Material from Reuters was used in this report.
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