Record Gun Sales In 2020, Ammo Shortages Widespread

US gun sales hit a new record high in 2020 and based on January sales, gun purchases will easily eclipse that record in 2021. Nearly 23 million guns were legally sold in 2020, up a whopping 64% year over year. More than 2 million firearms were sold in January alone this year, up over 80%, in the wake of the mob-led attack on the US Capitol on January 6.

Most interesting is the makeup of people buying all these guns – it’s not mostly middle-aged white guys as it’s been in the past. Over a third of gun sales in 2020 were by first-time buyers, 40% were women, and we saw a 58% rise in purchases by African Americans last year.

These numbers are unprecedented and include many people who previously vowed to never own a firearm. We’ll look into the reasons why as we go along today.

These record-breaking gun sales have understandably led to a nationwide shortage of ammunition. If you’ve been in a sporting goods store recently, you probably noticed the ammunition shelves were bare. Ammo manufacturers say it is uncertain when they will be able to ramp up production enough to meet this sky-high demand.

Let’s look at some numbers.

In 2020, we had a record 21 million background check applications to purchase a firearm. The previous record was 15.7 million in one year. In 2020, a record 8.4 million guns were purchased by first-time buyers. “It is really a tectonic shift…” says Mark Oliva, Director at the National Shooting and Sports Foundation.

Oliva points out that the rapid growth in the number of gun owners has naturally contributed to the increased demand for ammunition. He adds:

“You start to throw in all these new buyers, [with] all the people who are using already, and you start to throw in a little bit of the panic effect that goes in with seeing bare shelves, [and] you kind of get a picture of why it’s been so difficult to find the ammunition we need.”

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