US gun production has almost tripled over the past 20 years and 'ghost guns' are on the rise

US gun production has almost tripled over the past 20 years and 'ghost guns' are on the rise
Gun sales on Black Friday 2021 soared, ranking among the top ten highest days for gun-related background checks..Keith Srakocic/AP
  • US gunmakers made almost three times as many firearms in 2020 as 2000, a new federal report said.
  • The number of untraceable "ghost guns" is also on the rise in the US, the report said.

US gunmakers made 11.3 million legal firearms in 2020 — almost triple the 3.9 million guns that were produced 20 years prior, said a federal report that was released on Tuesday.

Three days after a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, left 10 people dead and three more injured, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives released the first comprehensive analysis of gun sales in over 20 years. The report is a part of President Joe Biden's work to stop illegal gun sales.

The report showed that in 2020 — the same year gun sales surged — firearm-related homicides in the US hit their highest level in 26 years, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated. In 2020, the agency reported 19,350 firearm homicides, 35% more than the previous year.

The data is not altogether unexpected. Last year, Insider reported that the FBI processed 39.7 million firearm background checks in 2020. Background checks are not a direct representation of the number of guns sold, as the data includes checks related to concealed-carry permits and suppressor sales, in addition to gun sales. But they're still an important indicator of sales, and the number of background checks was the most the agency had ever seen since it started recording the data in 1998. The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimated at the time that about 8.5 million people bought their first gun in 2020.

The ATF report also provided data on "ghost guns," which are firearms that can be bought online or 3D-printed and assembled at home. They are virtually untraceable and can be purchased without a background check. The agency said that police discovered over 19,000 ghost guns in 2021 — 10 times as many as were found in 2016.


Last month, Biden announced efforts to crack down on ghost guns, requiring the gun kits be recognized as "firearms" under the Gun Control Act and treated the same as other commercially assembled firearms. The new rule is set to go into effect next year.

Most gun-related crimes in the nation are caused by guns that are made legally in the US but then stolen, the report said. It said 39,147 firearms were reported stolen by gun stores between 2016 and 2020. That number doesn't include guns that were taken from individuals, which would likely push the number even higher. The Wall Street Journal reported in April that gun thefts had surged over the past two years.

The ATF also reported a shift in consumer interest in guns as semiautomatic handguns began to outsell rifles as early as 2009, which indicates a potential shift in gun purchases for hunting sport versus for physical defense.

"We can only address the current rise in violence if we have the best available information and use the most effective tools and research to fuel our efforts," Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said in the press release from the Department of Justice. "This report is an important step in that direction. The Department will continue to gather the data necessary to tailor our approach at the most significant drivers of gun violence and take shooters off the streets."