Putting 2020 In Context

We’ll probably never have another year like 2020 — thank goodness, even though the sales boon was welcome.

More than 21 million NICS background checks (NSSF-adjusted) were conducted in 2020, smashing the previous record of 15.7 million from 2016. 2020’s figure represented an astonishing year-over-year increase of 59.7% over 2019 (13,199,172). Q4 2020 (Oct.–Dec.) surpassed 5 million background checks (a record for Q4), despite December 2020 being “only” the third-highest December on record with 1,906,916 checks. Incredibly, this was the first month since February 2020 that hadn’t been a record month in the system’s 20-year history — which was likely stunted due to widespread inventory shortages.

In another stunning figure, NSSF estimates 8.4 million new gun owners joined our ranks last year. Dealers around the country have confirmed many of these first-time buyers were women, minorities and those who previously were vehemently opposed to firearms ownership. Providing tips for re-engaging these customers will be another crucial editorial consideration for SI this year. (In case you missed it, make sure you read this month’s “Training & The First-Time Gun Owner” feature by Tim Barker.)