After two devastating mass shootings in less than two weeks, the debate over gun control has once again flared up in the United States. While gun rights advocates argue that carrying a gun is the only way to protect oneself in situations like the supermarket shooting in Buffalo, New York on May 14, those in favor of stricter gun laws argue that restricting access to firearms is the best way to prevent mass shootings from happening in the first place.
As indicated by the number of background checks initiated through the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), gun sales surged in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic and repeated eruptions of political unrest boosted demand for firearms. Not only did the NICS perform 39.7 million background checks in 2020 - 10 million more than the previous record - but it also registered 6 of the 10 highest weeks for background checks since 1998 last year, with the three weeks between the Capitol riot and Biden's inauguration also making the list. Gun sales remained near record levels in 2021, when 38.9 million NICS background checks were performed.
While the FBI notes that "a one-to-one correlation cannot be made between a firearm background check and a firearm sale," the figures are widely considered to be indicative of overall sales activity in the United States. Mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 the FBI launched NICS on November 30, 1998.