The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released December’s National Criminal Instant Criminal Background System (NICS) figures, as well as annual report for last year, and the numbers—often considered a barometer for overall gun sales nationwide—show the FBI processed the second-highest volume of requests ever in 2017. The 2016 a total of 27,538,673 NICS checks still holds the record. Last year came in at 25,235,215, which moved 2015’s total of 23,141,970 down to third place.
In December 2017 a total of 2,586,138 NICS checks were processed, the highest month of the year. December 2015 set the monthly, all-time high-water mark with 3,314,594.
There are some interesting trends that can be identified in the 2017 figures. Handguns, for example, outsold long guns in Florida by a more than 2:1 margin (638,938 to 278,618). Nationwide pistols were still higher at 7,226,976, but long gun sales closed the gap with 5,234,757. In only 13 states new rifle and shotgun owners outnumbered their carry counterparts. The list includes Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming.
Some of the figures can be shocking to residents. The one I ran across from where I live in North Carolina is a good example. It indicates there were 18,131 background checks during 2017 for handguns. Conversely, the report states 158,597 were processed for long guns. That 1:8 ratio is a downright surprise considering what I see in sporting goods stores. More handguns were reclaimed after being pawned than were purchased outright. I surmised it was a mistake, but the 2016 report reflects a similar spread. A requirement to secure a permit from the local chief law enforcement officer prior to purchasing a handgun may be the explanation.
There are a variety of reasons the information doesn’t accurately reflect a precise number of firearm purchases. Background checks conducted through NICS for carry permits are the biggest culprit. In addition, last year 236,167 checks were entered into the report’s “multiple” column, which indicates at least two firearms were transferred during the transaction.