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Fear & Loading: Double-Digit Drop in Gun Sales in February

Fear & Loading: Double-Digit Drop in Gun Sales in February

Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF) estimates that February gun sales—based on National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) volume—dropped by 12.4 percent when compared to the same month in 2018. Arriving at a more accurate glimpse of total firearm sales requires the organization to deduct concealed carry permits and other administrative duties performed by the system from the raw NICS volume reported by the FBI, although the figures are still a rough estimate of total firearm sales.

“February sales traditionally show an increase over January, and this is true this year as well,” said SAAF Chief Economist Jurgen Brauer. “But the large year-over-year drop in February 2019 sales, particularly in the long-gun segment, might give the industry some pause. Since 2015, handgun sales have reliably outpaced long-gun sales every month, even during the hunting season, indicative of the shift in consumer demand that started in the late 2000s.”

SAAF estimates the total number of firearms sold last month and processed through NICS was roughly 1,157,094. “Likely single handgun sales (663,620) decreased year-over-year by 9.2% and single long-gun sales (392,871) decreased year-over-year by 18.1%,” the organization wrote in a press release. “This includes so-called ‘multiple’ sales where the allocation between handguns and long-guns cannot be determined from the data record.” The observations are based on a more detailed report available from the FBI that dissects type of sale, by state, per month.

Even the raw NICS figures reflect a significant decrease. February’s numbers were the worst for the month since 2015 and the lowest total volume processed through the system since September 2018. The news comes on the heels of news that temporarily buoyed the industry last month, when January’s adjusted NICS figures indicated a year-over-year increase in firearm sales of 3.7 percent.

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