July gun sales, as reflected in the number of National Instant Criminal Background System checks (NICs) processed by the FBI, were down 15.7 percent compared to the same month in 2022. Despite the slowdown at FFLs, it was the 48th month in a row in which more than one million gun purchases were reflected in NICS volume.
The figure is closer to 1,023,903, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) monthly estimate that subtracts concealed carry permit applications, renewals and other administrative use of NICS. The organization also reported that June—when compared to a year before—was down even more at 19.6 percent. The total number that month came in at roughly 1,110,696. There was also a decline in May of 0.1 percent, roughly 1,174,142.
The last increase in year-over-year sales was in April, which saw a 0.7 percent increase over the same month in 2022 (1,369,296 versus 1,359,908). The summer months, however, are traditionally slowest for firearm sales. An uptick often seen comes in August as hunters begin preparing for opening days.
With 24 states currently accepting at least one qualified alternative to undergoing a NICS check to purchase a firearm—often a valid concealed carry permit—the figures are estimates and should be considered as only a relative barometer of industry health. The trend is, however, endorsed by a U.S. Department of Treasury report in late July that indicates firearm and ammunition companies were already throttling production due to swollen inventories and in anticipation of the approaching summer lull.
An NSSF analysis of the figures, which cover the period from Jan. 1 to March 30, 2023, reflects a 23.9 percent reduction in the excise tax due on pistols and revolvers—compared to the first quarter of 2022—and a decline of 9.2 percent on other firearms and long guns. The drop was 21.8 percent in the ammunition category. Those excise taxes are levied according to production volume and paid by the manufacturers.