Volume 25, Number 5 August/September 2017

May was a record-breaking month for firearm background checks—the highest number of checks for that typically slower sales month ever processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). In total, the FBI/NICS processed 1,942,677 checks, an increase of more than 70,000 from the May 2016 number. Our NSSF-adjusted NICS May figure of 988,473 shows an increase of 6.5 percent compared to the May 2016 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 928,532.

The adjusted NICS data are derived by subtracting NICS purpose code permit checks and permit rechecks used by several states for CCW permit application checks, as well as checks on active CCW permit databases.

The NSSF-adjusted NICS data provide a snapshot of current market conditions, although it is not a direct one-to-one correlation to firearms sales. Note that FBI/NICS and NSSF-adjusted NICS figures do not account for firearm sales using approved alternate permits, such as a concealed-carry license, which is allowed by several states.

In recent years, mainstream media has developed a knack for speculating on why gun sales go up or down, and they usually miss the complete picture. They tend to over-politicize the sales environment, looking to consumer fear of more restrictive gun control laws and pointing to acts of terrorism and mass shootings. The underlying sales factor that gets short shrift is that more people are participating in the shooting sports. While many new shooters try their hand first with a rental or loaner, active participation generally leads individuals to buy a gun—and quite often, as their interest grows, more than one.

—Larry Keane