Industry group's analysis of FBI records shows sales just above 2016 levels
Visitors view a gun display at a NRA outdoor sports trade show in Harrisburg, Penn. / Getty Images
BY: Stephen Gutowski
May 1, 2017 5:30 pm
The number of gun-related background checks in April remained near record levels, FBI statistics released on Monday show.
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) ran 2,045,564 gun-related checks in April. That represents a decrease of about a hundred thousand checks from the all-time record for the month of April set in 2016. It also is a drop of almost four hundred thousand from March as the gun industry enters its seasonal low period.
An analysis of the raw NICS numbers from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) shows that sales may actually be higher than last April. The group's analysis strips out NICS checks that are conducted for gun-carry permits or other checks that aren't related to sales. The analysis found that 1,111,596 checks were related to sales, a small increase from the same period last year.
"The April 2017 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is an increase of 0.04 percent compared to the April 2016 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,111,205," the NSSF said in a release.
The industry group said its analysis shows that sales aren't in a slump, as many in the media have proclaimed in recent months.
"Anyone looking to proclaim a continuing sales slump would be wrong based on the best number we have as a proxy for firearms sales for April 2017 compared to April 2016," Mike Bazinet, a NSSF spokesman, told the Washington Free Beacon.
Sales in the first two months of 2017 were significantly slower than the record-setting pace of 2016, but NSSF says sales in March and April have matched or exceeded that pace.
Metrics for measuring gun sales in the United States remain limited. While NICS checks are required for many gun sales, most states do not require NICS checks on sales between private individuals on the used firearm market. Other factors can affect the raw numbers reported by the FBI, like transactions of multiple guns using a single NICS check or transactions in states that accept proof of a gun-carry permit in place of a NICS check.
"These statistics represent the number of firearm background checks initiated through the NICS," the FBI noted in its monthly background check report. "They do not represent the number of firearms sold. Based on varying state laws and purchase scenarios, a one-to-one correlation cannot be made between a firearm background check and a firearm sale."
Still, NICS checks remain one of the best gauges for gun sales as they are required on all sales of new guns and nearly all sales involving licensed gun dealers.
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Stephen Gutowski is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He founded his own site as a junior in college and has been writing about news and politics since that time. He spent 4 years with the Media Research Center and was most recently with the Capitol City Project. His email address is Gutowski@FreeBeacon.com. His twitter handle is @StephenGutowski.