Last year’s Black Friday set the single-day record for gun background checks run — 203,086.
When you buy a gun from a federally licensed firearms dealer, they’re required to run a background check.
While there is no tally of guns sold in the U.S., there is a daily count of background check requests from the FBI and it’s generally considered the best way to measure gun sales.
The daily count of background check requests from the FBI is generally considered the best way to measure gun sales.
generally considered the best way to measure gun sales.
Data: FBI; Illustration: Luis Melgar, WAMU
Black Friday sales
The gun industry was deeply discounting products last year because of overproduction, according to Lawrence Keene of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
“The overall trend over time is that the market is growing,” said Keene. “But 2016 was unprecedented in terms of sales because an election was coming up and concerns that consumers had about what might occur if Hillary Clinton had been elected president.”
So production went way up in anticipation of the increased demand that comes with a president viewed as anti-gun.
When President Trump took office, the industry had to find a way to sell those guns, leading to big Black Friday sales in 2017.
“So there was excess inventory for a period of time,” says Keene, “but all indications are that the inventory levels have come down considerably and are back to a more normal situation.”
That means discounts at retailers might not be as dramatic this year.
But with demand still strong, Keene thinks it is possible this year’s Black Friday background checks could set a record for the fifth straight year.
Luis Melgar contributed to this reporting.
Update: The FBI reported Friday that it ran 182,093 background checks for firearms, the lowest number since 2014.
Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.