There are more than 129,817 federally licensed firearms dealers in the United States, according to the latest Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives numbers (as of Aug. 1) . Of those, 51,438 are retail gun stores, 7,356 are pawn shops and 61,562 are collectors, with the balance of the licenses belonging mostly to manufacturers and importers of firearms and destructive devices.
For comparison, here are some numbers of other ubiquitous elements of American life:
- Gas Stations in the U.S. (2011): 143,839 (source TD LINX/Nielsen via National Associations of Convenience Stores, Association for Convenience for Convenience and Fuel Retailing)
- Grocery Stores in the U.S. (2011) 36,569 (source: Food Marketing Institute)
- McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. (2011): 14,098 (Source: McDonald’s Corporation Annual Report 2011)
According to ATF reports, in 2010 there were 5,459,240 new firearms manufactured in the United States, nearly all (95 percent) for the U.S. market. An additional 3,252,404 firearms were imported to the United States.
The numbers are mind-boggling. Let me try to understand. There were 8.5 million new guns, between manufacture and import, in 2010. Yet there were twice that many background checks?
Many places a guy with a concealed carry license can buy a new gun without doing another background check, which makes the disparity even more difficult to understand.
Can we assume the 8.5 million new firearms in 2010 includes rifles and shotguns, for which no background check is required in most states? Even worse. Handguns to background checks is about a 1 to 4 ratio.
How can there be 4 times as many background checks as there are guns to purchase? Some of them may be done in pawn shops where the gun involved is not one of the 2010 vintage. But can that explain the tremendous disparity?
One conclusion: whenever the pro-gun crowd use background checks as an indicator of gun sales, we can't take it too seriously. There's some explaining to do.
What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.