gun sales continue to rise, with april marking the sixth consecutive month of big increases in use of the fbi’s national instant background check system. since some attribute rising gun sales to fears of gun control, i wanted to know how much sales have risen since president obama was elected in november.

firearms sales are seasonal, typically peaking in december and bottoming out around may. since i was interested in the post-election period, i plotted sales from november to april of each year since the nics system came online.
there were about 8.1 million background checks from november 2008 to april 2009, an increase of 29 percent over the previous period from november 2007 to april 2008. this was by far the largest increase of the past decade, though i can’t really tell whether it was due to president obama’s election, a deepening recession, or some other factor.

background checks are closely but imperfectly related to gun sales, since some checks never result in a purchase and others result in multiple purchases. nevertheless, the sheer number of nics checks is impressive, if not astounding. in a nation of 218 million adults, i count 8,097,100 background checks in the past six months alone.

how can that figure be correct? i know that not every check represents a single individual, but i’m still having trouble getting my head around the idea of 8 million in just 6 months. it would be as if every single adult resident of wyoming, vermont, north dakota, south dakota, alaska, delaware, montana, rhode island, hawaii, new hampshire, and maine all walked into bill’s gun shop to plunk down five hundred bucks for a glock 19. i wonder what the next six months will bring…