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Gun Sales Up in March Despite Decrease in Background Checks

Industry group's analysis points to increase in sales

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BY: Stephen Gutowski

April 3, 2017 3:45 pm

An analysis of sales related to the FBI's background check numbers released by a leading gun industry group on Monday shows sales may have increased despite a continued downturn in the raw background check numbers.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry's leading trade association, reviewed the number of checks conducted by the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for the month of March 2017 shortly after the numbers were released to the public. Their review found that, once the checks related to gun-carry permits were removed, there were more firearm-related checks in March 2017 than in March 2016. The group said that indicates there were more gun sales in March 2017 than the previous year.

"The March 2017 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 1,356,929 is an increase of 5.2 percent compared to the March 2016 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,289,670," the group's research arm said in a statement. "For comparison, the unadjusted March 2017 FBI NICS figure of 2,422,749 reflects a 3.4 percent decrease from the unadjusted FBI NICS figure of 2,509,065 in March 2016."

The number of NICS checks in a given period is generally considered a strong indicator of how many firearms are sold in that period largely because federally licensed firearms dealers are required to run a NICS check on most sales they perform. The numbers are not a one-to-one representation of gun sales, however, for a number of reasons. For example, multiple guns can be sold during a single background check and most states do not require NICS checks for sales between private individuals on the secondary market.

The NSSF analysis faces the same limitations and does not represent an exact sales number but should be closer than the raw figures since it strips away checks related to gun-carry permit applications.

The findings show the industry may not be in the dire straights that many media reports have trumpeted in the months since President Trump took office. Industry insiders have been pushing back on the narrative that the floor has fallen out of gun sales in 2017. NSSF said its analysis shows sales remain strong even as they retreat from the record figures seen in 2016.

"Despite the mainstream news media narrative, which has overemphasized the political component of sales, the sky is not falling for the firearms industry," Michael Bazinet, NSSF spokesperson, told the Washington Free Beacon. "We are seeing a cyclical downturn that had to be expected after recent record sales years, but the valley floor is also considerably higher after a decade of increasing participation in the shooting sports."