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For the first time, the United States imported more than $1 billion in handguns last year — and it is on pace to break that record this year, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data.
While neither the 18-year-old boy who murdered 19 elementary school children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas this week nor the 18-year-old boy who is alleged to have murdered 10 grocery shoppers in a predominantly black neighborhood of Buffalo, N.Y., a week earlier relied upon an imported handgun — both were armed with semi-automatic rifles — no weapon is as ubiquitous in America as the handgun.
Handguns, of course, can also be manufactured for rapid firing and that is increasingly the case, according to a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ report issued three days after the Buffalo shooting and just prior to the Uvalde shooting.
In fact, since 2009, the number of semi-automatic handguns sold has outpaced rifle sales in the United States.
The 2021 U.S. handgun import total of $1.19 billion marked a 36.74% increase over 2020. That is a growth rate 73% greater than the average for all U.S. imports last year, which increased 21.24 %.
In 2014, the import total had been little more than half the 2021 total, at $518.62 million. The United States has set a record for the value of these imports 11 of the last 15 years.
For years, more than one-third of those guns have come from Austria, based on value. The handgun most closely associated with Austria is the Glock.
Brazil and Croatia have long been leading sources of the imports as well. Turkey is a fast-growing importing nation. Brazil’s leading handgun manufacturer is Taurus while Turkey is associated with such manufacturers as Girsan and Tisas. HS Produkt is a leading Croatian manufacturer.
In 2021, Austria accounted for 33.6% of the total, down from 40.13% in 2015; Brazil accounted for 12.25%, down from 19.38% in 2019; Turkey accounted for 10.72%, an increase from 0.67% in 2014; and Croatia accounted for 10.65%, down from 15.71% in 2014.
Germany has long been a leading supplier as well and is rising in market share in the early months of 2022, according to the Census data, ranking third behind Austria and Brazil with 11%. It is well known for a number of brands, including the Sig-Sauer.
In a number of cases, the importing country is closely associated with a specific airport. For example, 99% of the handguns imported from Austria in 2021 entered at Atlanta’s Hartfield-Jackson International Airport while 98% of the Brazilian Taurus brand entered at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, making it one of the most valuable imports at the airport, which handles relatively little cargo.
With Croatian handguns, 100% entered at Chicago’s O’Hare International. In the case of Turkey and Germany, the dominance is less pronounced. With Turkey, 61% entered at New York’s JFK International, with smaller amounts entering at Dulles International in the metro Washington D.C. area and at Miami International Airport, With Germany, 49% entered at Atlanta and a smaller percentage entered at Houston’s Intercontinental Airport.