The FBI handled 202,465 NICS checks on Black Friday, the second-highest single-day volume on record, 11 percent more than last year and less than 2,000 below the all-time record set in 2017, according to an early report from USA Today. Although each background check doesn’t necessarily reflect a firearm purchase, administrative use of the system is negligible the day after Thanksgiving, a fact that renders the relative barometer of industry health more accurate for this 24-hour period than monthly figures provided throughout the year.
The total number of guns purchased is also likely higher due to streamlining built into the NICS system. When an enthusiast purchases multiple firearms—simultaneously in the same exchange at the cash register—the agency requires a single background check. In addition, the process is not required in some regions of the country for those who have gone through the additional investigation to secure a concealed carry permit, assuming it is current and in good standing.
Black Friday is traditionally a heavy sales day for firearm retailers. Once updated, it will officially hold seven of the top-10 spots on the FBI’s list [PDF] of heaviest single-day use of the NICS background check system.
Gun purchases have increased steadily since August of this year. In October—after adjusting for administrative use of the NICS system and processing of carry permits—Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF) estimated October’s sales were up by more than 10 percent compared to last year.
The USA Today article claims, “Gun check numbers need only remain steady for the rest of the year to break the annual record.” Gross NICS figures aside, the economic experts at SAAF were more reserved when they released annual estimates only days before Black Friday’s volume. The organization’s Nov. 25 press release explained, “We suggest that November 2019 (not FBI/NICS background checks!) may come in at 1.5 million units [firearms], and December sales as high as 1.7 to 1.8 million, bringing the year’s total to about 14 million units, somewhat above the 2018 total of 13.8 million but below the 2017 total of 14.7 million (and far below the 2016 total of 16.6 million).”
American Rifleman will be the first to let you know if SAAF adjusts its estimate.