Gun Sales, Background Checks in Joe Biden's First Year Near Trump's and Obama's Combined

The number of gun sales and background checks completed in President Joe Biden's first year in office is nearing the combined numbers done during the first years for former Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama.

According to data from the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), there have been 35,778,134 gun background checks in 2021. The data for Biden's first year does not include December and instead is the total number of gun background checks from January to November 2021.

Comparatively, during Trump's first year in office in 2017, the NICS database shows that there were 25,235,215 gun background checks. In 2009, Obama's first year in office, the NICS database shows 14,033,824 total gun background checks. The data for both Trump and Obama includes gun background checks from January to December in each of the two respective years.

Combined, there were 39,269,039 total background checks completed in 2009 and 2017. Since the NICS database does not include 2021 data for December, the total number of background checks completed during Biden's first year could top the combined numbers conducted during Trump and Obama's first years in office.

The nation also saw the number of firearm sales during Biden's first year near the number of combined sales during Trump and Obama's first years in office.

Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF), a research firm that uses the NICS database to estimate gun sales, provided data to Newsweek, which shows 18,005,229 gun sales from January through November of this year. The firm estimated that by the end of the year there will be about 20 million total gun sales.

In comparison, the data provided to Newsweek showed that during Trump's first year in office, there were 14,716,708 gun sales and 10,079,105 sales in 2009.

While speaking with Newsweek, Jurgen Brauer, the chief economist for SAAF, explained that the research firm makes adjustments to the NICS numbers by using surveys, a specific algorithm and conducting interviews with retailers and wholesalers. Brauer noted that some states make gun owners complete background checks on a monthly basis even if they didn't recently purchase a gun, which is why the total number of gun sales differs from the total number of background checks completed by the FBI.

Overall, data shows that the total number of background checks and gun sales have been increasing over the past several years.

While Obama was unable to pass any concrete firearm reform legislation during his first term, Brauer told Newsweek that "fear of firearm legislation drove the demand," in 2009, as the nation saw over 2 million more background checks compared with 2008.

From 2015 to 2016, there was a large increase in the number of background checks conducted by the FBI, but during Trumps' first year in office, the number fell below the 27.5 million recorded in 2016. Brauer explained to Newsweek that ahead of the 2016 election, there was a large increase in the number of guns purchased as gun owners expressed concern over possible strict firearm legislation if Hillary Clinton won.

"When Mr. Trump was elected, we called it the 'Trump Slump' in the [firearm] industry," Brauer said. "People then believed: Mr. Trump is at the helm, there will never be firearm legislations that will be deemed injurious to the firearms industry."

During Trump's first year in office, he signed a bill that repealed a regulation imposed under Obama's second term that required the Social Security Administration to provide the FBI's NICS database with the names of people who received mental health benefits. A year later, following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Trump suggested that his administration was going to take strong action on firearm background checks, but in 2019 he threatened to veto a Democratic-led bill that expanded federal background checks for firearms and prolonged the review period for background checks.

Brauer told Newsweek that in 2020, gun sales and background checks spiked amid the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the civil unrest following the police killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests. According to data released by the FBI, there were also 4,901 additional homicides recorded in 2020, compared with the previous year.

Gun sales and background checks then rose again shortly after Biden took office in 2021, following the January 6 riots at the Capitol and Biden's calls for stricter gun legislation on the two-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting in February.

Earlier this month, the White House issued a statement saying that the Biden administration has "made more progress on executive actions to reduce gun violence than any other Administration has in its first year."

"While the President is using his existing authority to deliver meaningful action on gun violence, he continues to insist that Congress must act, and for Republicans in the Senate to stop blocking commonsense legislation to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and weapons of war off our streets," the statement said.

In addition to the politics surrounding gun sales and background checks, Brauer explained several other "underlying trends" that have caused these numbers to increase over the past several years.

"We have more urbanization over the years, we have more female-headed households, we have less and less hunting land, we have more minorities entering the market," Brauer said. "We have a rejuvenation through advertising campaigns of the youth market."

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

There were over 35 million gun background checks conducted during President Joe Biden's first year, which is nearing the number completed in Trump and Obama's first years combined. Above, assault rifles hang on the wall for sale at Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly, Virginia, on October 6, 2017. AFP Contributor/Getty

Correction 12/27/21, 3:04 p.m. ET: This article has been updated to correct a quote from Jurgen Brauer in which he discussed a rejuvenation of the "youth market."