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Fear & Loading: Gun Sales Will Hit Record High

Fear & Loading: Gun Sales Will Hit Record High

In 2013, the National Criminal Instant Background Check System (NICS) set an all-time record for the number of times the FBI approved the purchase of a firearm by a law-abiding citizen. The high-water mark of 21,093,273 buoyed the entire industry, but this year’s figures are about to rain on that two-year-old parade.

NICS checks are conducted for reasons other than a gun purchase, so the record-setting 2013 figure doesn’t necessarily reflect the total number of guns sold. However, it’s one of the best barometers at our disposal, and right now it’s all sunny skies and high demand. Here are some of the numbers. 

In September, there were 1,795,702 NICS checks. That’s the highest total for the month, and shatters September 2012’s mark of 1,459,363. August also set another record, as well as July, June and May—1,745,410, 1,600,832, 1,529,057 and 1,580,980, respectively. 

*Image of FBI’s Criminal Information Services building courtesy of the FBI.


December’s holiday sales are typically the deciding factor in any record year, though. The most NICS checks conducted in a single month, for example, took place in December, 2012, at 2,783,765. That’s nearly a million more than last month, making it dubious (at best) to issue record-setting predictions. Five months in a row, however, does make a few statements.

For example, most gun owners have no idea where nearly all of those NICS checks are conducted. It’s a modest building near Winchester, Va., with a staff that is undoubtedly feeling the pressure. If you’ve purchased a firearm lately, though, you know they’ve somehow kept up, and from what I’m told by my dealer, always do so in a professional manner. They deserve praise from law-abiding citizens for those efforts.

Then there’s the number of purchases. NICS checks through September, inclusive, in 2013’s banner year totaled 15,550,503. This year during the same period there were 15,607,587. The final stretch will be critical, although there’s no denying 2014 is ahead by a nose. There is one thing certain in the outcome, though. Rumors of a demise in gun ownership are greatly exaggerated.

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