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Data Show Firearm Sales Appear To Be Falling Nationally

Gun sales likely fell in 2023, according to data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). 2023 marked the third straight annual decline after a major increase in gun sales in 2020, according to Jeff Asher's Jeff-alytics. Monthly FBI data highlights numerous instances of reactionary surges in gun sales. The data showed a big increase in December 2012 after the Sandy Hook school shooting, an increase in late 2015 into 2016 that loosely corresponds with the 2016 presidential campaign, and an enormous surge starting in early 2020 with the onset of the pandemic.

Gun sales rose in every state between 2019 and 2020 and there were only two states where gun sales were higher in 2023 than in 2020. The increasing gun sales in Iowa and North Carolina can be tied to legal changes that allow people to carry firearms without a permit. The change in North Carolina came about after a legislative change at the end of March 2023. The Iowa surge came in mid-2021 and, while gun sales dipped from 2022 to 2023, they were still considerably higher last year than in 2020. It’s hard to say what the long-term trend will be given how reactionary gun sales have been to external events. However, gun sales are declining, and the FBI’s NICS data provide a unique look at an important issue.


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