The number of NICS background checks processed by the FBI in May—2,349,309—is a new record for the month and reflects an increase in firearm sales of between 0.7 and 1 percent when compared to the same period last year. The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates 910,910 firearms sales were included in the system’s numbers last month, up from its estimated of 904,834 for May 2018.
Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting’s calculations indicate slightly higher numbers, however, at 957,725. It dissected the figures in a June 7 press release. “Likely single handgun sales (542,654) increased year-over-year by 0.7% but single long-gun sales (321,749) decreased year-over-year by 3.2%,” it wrote. “All other likely firearms sales (93,322) increased year-over-year by 21.9%. This includes so-called ‘multiple’ sales where the allocation between handguns and long-guns cannot be determined from the data record.”
Accurately Inaccurate NICS volume is considered a good relative barometer of overall firearm sales, but for a more precise glimpse both NSSF and Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting subtract concealed-carry permit applications/renewals and other identifiable administrative uses of the system from the gross figure. Clouding the issue—as one American Rifleman reader recently e-mailed—is the growing number of enthusiasts who have voluntarily subjected themselves to additional background checks, fingerprinting, chief law enforcement officer written permission, courses and other requirements to secure a CCW.
In some areas a NICS check is not recorded when a valid carry permit is presented to make a purchase. With the Crime Prevention Research Center’s estimate that more than 17.25 million Americans fall into that category, the potential unreported sales volume is significant.
Jurgen Brauer, chief economist for Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting, explained his group’s figures are typically higher than those from NSSF because it adds the results of a formula based on market research to reflect a portion of unreported sales. A similar approach is taken in the multiple-sales tabulation.
Quarterly reports issued by several firearm companies mirror the findings of Brauer and NSSF, indicating CCW holder purchases have yet to reach the volume required to significantly skew estimates. The adjusted figures are not a precise count of guns bought in the last month, according to Brauer, but they do reflect buying trends with relatively accuracy.
The increase in sales comes on the heels of survey results released by Southwick Associates last week that indicate total consumer spending in the shooting and hunting market increased by 11 percent in 2018.