U.S. gun sales broke 1 million for a record 36th straight month in July as crime spikes in major cities across the country and congressional Democrats push to ban assault weapons.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry trade group, adjusted figures from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System showed 1.23 million background checks for gun purchases in July. Background checks are the most common tool firearms experts use to estimate the number of gun purchases.
That’s the third-highest total on record for July after 1.28 million checks last year and a record-high 1.85 million in July 2020, when civil unrest spurred by George Floyd’s death in police custody sparked a sharp rise in gun purchases. The group’s adjusted numbers filter out background checks related to gun permit applications.
“People see prosecutors refusing to lock up criminals and they’re concerned for their personal safety,” said foundation spokesperson Mark Oliva.
In July 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic started, the group reported 830,579 background checks. The highest month on record is March 2020, when 2.3 million background checks were conducted and when COVID-19 lockdowns started.
Mr. Oliva noted that buyers have become younger, more urban and more racially diverse since the pandemic began. The NSSF reported a 58% increase in gun ownership among Black people from 2019 to 2020, as 8.4 million Americans became new gun owners that year.
“This is 36 months of sales over 1 million. We’ve never been this strong for so long and it’s because today’s gun owner looks nothing like yesterday’s gun owner,” Mr. Oliva said.
Jason East, president of Florida-based gunmaker Adams Arms, says his company has seen a 40% increase in gun sales since 2020, thanks largely to women and millennials who listen to gun podcasts and seek out the latest high-tech models.
“Women gun owners, followed by the millennial generation, were found to constitute two of our largest new gun-owner sales,” Mr. East said in an email.
He noted that 20% of Adams Arms gun buyers since last year are women and 15% are millennials. In 2019, millennials and women comprised about 3% of sales each.
Gareth Glaser, who co-founded Pennsylvania-based gun maker LodeStar four years ago, said the uptick in millennial and female gun buyers shows no signs of letting up.
Last month’s strong gun sales came as Democratic lawmakers moved to criminalize assault weapons and to ban kits and parts used to assemble “ghost guns,” which are firearms that don’t have a serial number and are untraceable. They can be bought online and assembled at home.
The move follows a series of federal regulations that President Biden announced in April as a “basic common sense” effort to reduce untraceable firearms.
After a series of mass shootings, including in Buffalo, New York, Uvalde, Texas, and Highland Park, Illinois, the Democrat-led House voted on July 29 to pass an assault weapons ban. The measure would forbid the sale of certain high-powered rifles, shotguns and pistols, excluding some antique and sporting models.
The legislation faces long odds in the evenly divided Senate.
Republicans call the bill an “unconstitutional” ploy by Democrats to confiscate guns.
Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed a gun control bill on July 24 that will allow people to sue distributors of illegal assault weapons, will forbid the marketing of firearms to minors and will restrict ghost guns.
Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group, says a growing number of politicians are running on the issue in November’s midterm elections.
“A record number of candidates are running hard on gun safety — and now it’s easier than ever to find them,” John Feinblatt, Everytown’s president, said in a statement Friday.
But despite the increased legislative focus, a Gallup poll reported Wednesday that only 8% of Americans inclined to participate in political protests cited gun violence as a top motivation for demonstrating — far short of abortion and other hot-button issues.
Mr. Glaser said his company is 9-12 months away from starting commercial production on its new 9 mm LS9 pistol — a Bluetooth-activated “smart gun” that advocates say could herald a new age of safe gun ownership.
“Smart guns which require authentication from the owner to unlock and fire will substantially reduce gun incidents involving children,” Mr. Glaser said Friday.