May 18, 2022 - Economy

U.S. gun manufacturing triples since 2000

A person looking at a handgun in a store in Kissimmee, Florida, in December 2020.

A person looking at a handgun in a store in Kissimmee, Florida, in December 2020. Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Legal gun manufacturing in the U.S. has nearly tripled since 2000, according to a new federal tally of gun commerce released by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Tuesday.

Why it matters: A mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, that left 10 dead has again reignited the debate around guns and how to regulate them in the U.S.

By the numbers: Licensed gun manufacturers built around 11.3 million firearms in 2020, a roughly 187% increase over the amount produced in 2000.

  • In 2000, around 1,400 firearms were produced for every 100,000 people in the U.S., and that balloon to more than 3,400 by 2020. The U.S. population increased 18% over those two decades.
  • At no point since 2011 has there been a year in which fewer than around 6.7 million firearms were manufactured for domestic consumption.

Rifles were the most commonly produced firearm between 2000 and 2009.

  • Since then, except in 2015, pistols have become by far the most-manufactured type of gun in the country.
  • In 2020, 5.5 million handguns were built, constituting 50% of all firearms produced that year.

The ATF said police collected 19,344 privately produced and untraceable "ghost guns" in 2021.

  • It said that more than 25,000 such guns were used in crimes and recovered by law enforcement officials between 2016 and 2020, a dramatic rise and an indication that they are becoming more prevalent in the country.

The big picture: Gun manufacturing has increased alongside U.S. exports of firearms, gun sales and the country's firearm homicide and suicides rates, according to a Centers for Disease and Prevention report published last week.

  • Gun-related homicides dramatically spiked in 2020, as did gun sales, though those were not necessarily causally related, according to a 2021 report from the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis.
  • Firearm-related injuries, like homicide and suicide, surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death for children and teenagers in 2020.

Go deeper: Why more people of color are buying guns

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