As gun-related deaths in the United States reach new highs, a new government report shows that the number of firearms made in the US has increased exponentially over the past two decades.
Domestic gunmakers produced 11.3 million firearms in 2020 (the latest year for which data is available), roughly triple the 3.9 million that were made in 2000, according to a report by the Bureau of Alcohol , Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. During that time, a time when the US population grew 18%, the number of firearms produced each year increased 250%.
As part of that trend, the use of so-called— privately manufactured firearms that are often difficult to trace — has also been fired, the ATF also found.
The report is part of an effort by the Biden administration to end gun violence. The White House issued a series of directives last year to curb the shooting epidemic, which the administration called a public health epidemic. A record number of Americans died from firearm-related injuries in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center.
The ATF findings come a week after two mass shootings on opposite sides of the country. On Saturday, a gunman opened fire at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 people and wounding three. The next day, a gunman killed one person and wounded six at a church in Laguna Woods, California.
“At no time since 2011 has there been a year in which fewer than 6,731,958 firearms were manufactured for domestic consumption,” the report found.
In the 20-year period that the ATF focused on, the most popular type of gun in the US changed. Before 2009, rifles were the dominant firearm, according to the report. Starting in 2010 and almost every year after that, pistols became the most popular.
DIY gun making has also grown in popularity starting in the mid-2010s, the ATF found. The manufacture of miscellaneous firearms, a category that includes components that are sold to someone who then uses them to assemble a gun, grew 4,200%, with most of that growth occurring in the last 10 years, according to the report.
“This growth reflects the growing trend of individuals making their own custom firearms from serialized parts,” the report noted.
The ATF also noted an increase in so-called ghost guns or homemade guns, guns made by an individual without a serial number. Building your own gun is legal, the ATF said, and was popular in the 1980s and 1990s among gun enthusiasts. But beginning in the mid-2000s, the advent of online tutorials and 3D printing fueled the growth of homemade guns. During this time, the number of DIY weapons recovered from crime scenes increased.
“As technology advances in the manufacture of [privately made firearms]there has been a corresponding increase in its use in crimes,” the agency found.
“[C]Criminals are actively manufacturing, using, and distributing PMFs both domestically and internationally,” the ATF wrote. And because their manufacture and distribution are unregulated, it is “almost impossible to know how many PMFs are manufactured and distributed in commerce or used by criminals.”
Law enforcement officials say such guns attract criminals as they don’t require a background check to purchase. The Biden administration has pushed to crack down on bogus weapons, implementing a new rule that would require them to include serial numbers and be traceable like other weapons. That rule goes into effect in August.