The number of gun sales estimated using the National Instant Background Check System, or NICS, for December of 2023 was about 1.74 million guns. This was the fourth-highest number of gun sales for December in the NICS system. The number of background checks was about 2.73 million. This was the sixth-highest December for NICS background checks.
December showed a slight drop in the trend for 2023 but is maintaining what has become the new normal of gun sales, which arguably started in 2011 when annual sales passed the 10 million mark.
2023 had the fourth-highest total for gun sales of any year recorded by the NICS system, about 15.31 million, which is virtually tied with the total gun sales for 2016.
The numbers in the NSSF chart above are slightly different because the NSSF and this correspondent use slightly different methods for estimating gun sales from NICS numbers. Given the inherent uncertainty of the estimates, the numbers are very close. Both estimates show years 2016 and 2023 are very close to each other for gun sales.
The total number of privately owned firearms in the United States of America is estimated at 503 million, or about 1.5 privately owned guns for every individual in the USA. With a current population of people over the age of 18 at 265 million, there are about 1.9 firearms per adult in the USA.
2024 is a presidential election year. Electoral politics have become the most contentious since perhaps 1860. President Lincoln was elected in a four-way race. Ten southern states refused to have Lincoln on the ballot. At the time, the southern states were not defying the Supreme Court. In 2023, several states are openly defying the Supreme Court decisions on the Second Amendment. About 40 percent of voters have serious concerns about the integrity of the election process. Chaos in major cities and bizarre foreign policy decisions are making large numbers of people concerned about their security. The trend of relatively high gun sales is expected to continue.
Some of the gun sales are related to high rates of gun sales among minorities and women. Part of that is the continuing restoration of Second Amendment rights by the Supreme Court. Minorities who have been told they are treated as second-class citizens are finding they have Second Amendment rights, just as everyone else. When a person learns they have a right to keep and bear arms, and the right is respected by the government, their attitude changes.
Internationally, the chaos is resulting in increased interest in arming citizens. Argentina’s President Milei wishes to restore Argentina’s right to self-defense. Nigerian politicians are urging the arming of villages. Muslim attacks on Christians in the Nigerian north are increasing. Israel has enacted minor reforms, allowing a few more stellar citizens to be armed.
Without strong leadership from the United States, freedom of the seas is threatened. China is encroaching on its neighbors. The Ukrainian/Russia war continues. The Ukrainian war has become a “drone war”, showing the vulnerability of armed men to ubiquitous small drones. Iran continues to threaten Israel, the United States, and most of Europe.
This correspondent predicted the USA would reach the half-billion mark in private firearm ownership in 2023. That prediction has been fulfilled.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.