Fear & Loading: Reports of Flat Gun Sales Greatly Exaggerated

by
posted on February 10, 2017
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No one’s denying the string of 19 months in a row that the number of BATFE NICS checks set a record came to a halt in December, but the figures don’t support the contention that firearm sales are slumping significantly. Comparing January and December numbers to other years indicates the industry is growing, and faster than its historic “normal.”

Numbers are your friend. Work them hard enough and you, too, can place winning second-half bets, buy an island in the Caribbean, declare its independence and make afternoon siestas mandatory for the entire populous—your family, preferably.

I’m not quite that good with math, but I do see some trends being ignored in the number of NICS checks the past couple of months. Feel free to indict my calculations, but in gridiron terms there’s no denying our ground game is moving the chains, and ownership is still increasing faster than normal.

The figures from 2016 are as freakish as a catch off an opponent’s foot—while airborne—so I’m ignoring that anomaly like referees avoid inspecting for shoe polish. In January 1999 (the first year it was reported that month) there were 591,355 NICS checks. By 2015 the figure the same month had increased to 1,772,794. That’s an overall increase of 1,181,439 background checks, over 17 years, or an average increase of 69,146 every January (population mean, in case my teachers are grading this).  

So, in a calm buying environment on an average year, we would have expected sales in January of 2016 to be equal to 1,772,794 (2015 figure) plus 69,146 (average annual gain), or 1,842,290. Add another 69,146 for 2017 and this year should have its summed up to 1,911,436. It didn’t. We beat the spread, soundly by the way, with a figure of 2,043,184.

Applying the same approach to December—but holding out 2015 numbers because it was part of the record-setting string—average increase is 84,591 each year. Add 2,309,683 (2014) + 84,591 + 84,911 = 2,478,865, or the number expected in December 2016.  The real number was 2,771,159, even more of a gain.

No, it’s not the most scientific methodology on the planet, but it does prove there’s no slump. Sales are brisk and increasing. I’ve been told if I worked this hard at placing my Super Bowl bets in Vegas I’d already be admiral of my own fleet lost somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle … . Unfortunately, the batteries in my slide rule died during the halftime show. 

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