Nov 3, 2020 - Economy

FBI conducted record number of firearm checks this year

A gun shop employee speaks to a customer while wearing a face mask

An employee at SP Firearms Unlimited in Franklin Square, New York, in August. Photo: Mike Pont/Getty Images

The FBI has processed more gun background checks in 2020 than in any other year on record, according to data the agency released Tuesday. Over 32 million guns were processed through the end of October.

The big picture: Gun sales in the U.S. spiked significantly in March when the coronavirus pandemic first began to spread in earnest across the country, per the New York Times.

Between the lines via Axios' Stef Kight: Mass social uncertainty often leads to an increase in gun buying, David Yamane, a Wake Forest University sociology professor who has studied gun culture, told Axios.

By the numbers: Eight of the busiest weeks on record for firearm background checks took place this year, per FBI data.

  • March 20 saw the most in a single day since 1998, when the National Instant Criminal Background Check System was created.

Flashback: The Trump administration deemed gun shops, shooting ranges and weapons manufacturers "essential" businesses at the end of March, allowing them to remain open during initial shutdowns in response to the pandemic this spring.

Go deeper: Behind the gun sales spike

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