U.S. Sees Ongoing Spike in Gun, Ammo Sales: 'I've Never Seen Anything Like It'

The U.S. is continuing to see a spike in gun and ammunition sales that began during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The spike in gun purchases has driven shortages of ammo across the country, according to the Associated Press.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation told the AP that it estimates that 20 million guns were sold in the U.S. Of those, it believes 8 million sales were made by first-time firearms purchasers.

"When you talk about all these people buying guns, it really has an impact on people buying ammunition," the organization's spokesperson, Mark Oliva, said.

"If you look at 8.4 million gun buyers and they all want to buy one box with 50 rounds, that's going to be 420 million rounds," he added.

Gun, ammo sales stay up
The U.S. is continuing to see a spike in gun and ammo sales that began last year. Here, guns for sale are displayed at The Gun Store on November 14, 2008, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Data from the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Checks System suggests a sharp uptick in gun sales in the last year and a half. In 2020, the FBI conducted background checks for nearly 40 million gun purchases. That's compared to about 28 million background checks in 2019, and 26 million in 2018. In 2010, the FBI conducted 14.4 million checks. Through the first six months of 2021, it has initiated more than 22 million background checks.

The FBI notes, however, that its data doesn't specifically track gun purchases, meaning "a one-to-one correlation can not be made between a firearm background check and a firearm sale."

The New York Times reported in May that preliminary data from Northeastern University and the Harvard Injury Control Research Center showed that a fifth of the people who bought guns in the U.S. last year were first-time owners.

The data also showed that 39 percent of U.S. households now own guns, an increase from 32 percent in 2016.

Georgia Gun Store owner Mike Weeks told Newsweek last July that he had seen an increase in first-time firearm buyers at his Gainsville, Georgia shop.

"In gun scares in the past, when we're worried the government's going to try and confiscate our guns, you see a group of people, most are either gun enthusiasts or people who already own guns, want to get more," Weeks said. "This time it's very different. We see almost nobody like that buying a gun," he added.

As firearm sales have increased and gun dealers struggle to keep ammunition on the shelves, the AP reports ammo imports from Russia, South Korea, the European Union and other countries have increased 225 percent.

Duane Hendrix, of the Seattle Police Athletic Association, a gun range in Tukwila, Washington, told the AP that he has started restricted customers to only buying two boxes of ammo.

"I've never seen anything like it before," Hendrix said. "There's stuff we can't get, especially rifle ammo. If you don't have ammo for your customers, there's no point in having your doors open."