This year’s NICS checks failed to eclipse last year’s Black Friday single-day record of 203,806 according to a story in USA Today. Last week’s number reported by the paper—182,093—places it fourth [PDF] in the ranking of heaviest 24-hour periods for background checks through the FBI, trailing the same pre-holiday shopping days of 2017, 2016 and 2015, respectively.
Although each NICS check doesn’t necessarily reflect the purchase of a firearm, it’s often used as a relative barometer of overall sales. October’s final figure, for example, came in [PDF] with a total of 2,086,895 criminal histories run through the system, compared to 2,030,391 the same period the year before.
Subtract those processed for concealed-carry permit applications and renewals and other criminal justice functions and the total becomes better focused. Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF) monitors the figures and earlier this month issued a press release estimating, “… October 2018 firearms sales at 1,046,081 units, a year-over-year decline of 11.9% from October 2017.” The organization’s calculation is roughly half of the total NICS checks conducted last month.
The temporary lull in governmental activity the day after Thanksgiving, however, should make Black Friday’s number more accurate than those typically reported during regular work days. Ominously, SAAF stated in the press release, “This is the lowest October number since October 2011. Likely single handgun sales (508,416) fell year-over-year by 11.5% and single long-gun sales (461,826) fell year-over-year by 12.9%.”
The “new norm” in gun sales, however, remains steady and this year is on a pace to claim third place in annual NICS checks. The odds are low it can surpass the highwater marks set in 2016 and 2017, however. SAAF Chief Economist Jurgen Brauer explained, “…the sum total of likely U.S. firearm sales for the first 10 months of 2018 is about 10.8 million units, below the 11.4 million units for the same period in 2017 and substantially below the high point of 12.9 million units sold in the first 10 months of 2016.”