The number of firearm background checks that took place last month in the US was 71% higher than during the same time last year, according to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
In June, the FBI processed almost 4 million background checks, which is the most since the agency started registering such data in 1988. Background check numbers have often been regarded as a good indicator of demand for guns.
The FBI data indicates that the demand for guns started increasing in March, when the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out in the US. In addition, the surge in demand is likely connected to the period of civil unrest that followed the police killing of George Floyd in late May.
"If you were to walk into any big-box store or any small corner gun store, you would see the shelves are bare, and they are bare because of demand," Marc Oliva, a representative for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), told the Business Insider.
"Manufacturers are working around the clock to be able to keep up with that demand,” Oliva added, calling the recent increase in first-time gun owners a “seismic shift.”
"People who were on the fence about being a gun owner, they have now come off that sideline, and they are taking action," he said.
A survey by the NSSF found that about 40% of gun sales during the COVID-19 pandemic have been to first-time gun-buyers.
“The early part of 2020 has been unlike any other year for firearm purchases - particularly by first-time buyers - as new NSSF research reveals millions of people chose to purchase their first gun during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the NSSF wrote.
In addition, a Monday blog post by the Brookings Institution reveals that around 3 million more firearms were sold between the months of March and June in the US this year than is typical for those months.