Big screen televisions, video game consoles, and the latest craze in kids' toys are popular purchases for eager Black Friday shoppers. But the biggest day for holiday shopping is also reportedly a big day for rifle, shotgun, and handgun sales. In fact, Nov. 24, which fell just weeks after 26 people were killed in a shooting at a Texas church, saw the FBI receive more than 200,000 requests for gun background checks. That means Black Friday 2017 set a new record for the number of gun background checks demanded in a single day, USA Today reported.
The FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) received 203,086 requests for background checks this past Friday alone, as Black Friday shoppers rushed to snap up firearms amid a flurry of deals. The number represents a significant jump from the previous single-day record of 185,713 requests for background checks. That record was reportedly set last year on Black Friday. And in 2015, the FBI received 185,345 background check requests, surpassing the previous single-day record of 117,170 set on Dec. 21, 2012, according to Fortune.
But what's behind the boost in sales? While President Donald Trump's pro-gun stance earned him an early endorsement from the National Rifle Association, it's also reportedly caused a decline in firearms sales as potential buyers cease to fear a federal crackdown on gun sales or gun control efforts.
According to CNN, firearms dealers were hoping that rebates and deep discounts would lure in customers on Black Friday and boost recently slagging sales. Two of the industry's biggest manufactures, Remington Arms Company and Browning Arms Company, offered cash rebates of up to $200 on shotguns and $100 on rifles this year, the cable news network reported. Cabela's, a specialty retailer for outdoor recreation sports such as hunting and shooting, rolled out 14 days of rifle, handgun, and ammunition deals in an effort to drum up sales. And if the new record for single-day gun background checks set Friday is any indication, those retailers' efforts appear to have worked.
However, sales and slashed prices may not be the only thing drawing in firearms customers this year. According to a 2015 report by TIME magazine, recent mass shootings may also play a key role. "Spikes in gun sales regularly occur following mass shootings, often over concerns of increased gun regulation or because people are looking for increased protection," TIME reported.
A total of 26 people were killed Nov. 5 when a gunman opened fire on people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. State officials have said it was the largest mass shooting in Texas' history. Reports that the shooter, a court-martialed Air Force veteran, cleared a background check enabling him to buy his weapon have spurred renewed debate about gun control.
In fact, just days before Black Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he'd ordered a complete review of the database used by the FBI to conduct background checks on gun buyers. The purpose of the review is to determine why necessary information was not being properly reported to the NICS database. A background check on the Texas church shooter, for instance, should have prevented him from being able to purchase a firearm due to his court martial.
While background checks are a requirement for any gun purchase made through a federally-licensed firearm dealer, they can't necessarily estimate the number of firearms actually sold. That's because a buyer looking to purchase multiple firearms in a single purchase only has to submit to one background check. In other words, the number of firearms sold on Black Friday this year could be significantly higher than the 203,086 requests for gun background checks.