Earlier this year, there was a lot of talk of a Trump Slump, a drop in gun sales because there’s no longer a fear of more gun control. Those concerns have been thoroughly debunked over the course of the year, but the perception still persists in some circles.
Well, maybe the fact that 2017 was the second-best year for gun sales will finally kill it.
2017 saw the second-most gun-related FBI background checks on record, a report released on Wednesday showed.
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) conducted 25,235,215 checks last year. That’s nearly 2.3 million checks fewer than the record-breaking year of 2016 but also nearly 2.1 million checks more than 2015, the third-best year on record.
The number of checks conducted by NICS is generally considered a leading indicator of how many gun sales have been processed in a given period of time in large part because nearly all sales—including all new gun sales—made through a federally licensed dealer must include a background check. It is not, however, a perfect representation of raw gun sales for a number of reasons. Sales between private parties on the used market are not required to go through a background check in most states. Sales of multiple guns during one transaction generally only require a single background check.
“These statistics represent the number of firearm background checks initiated through the NICS,” the FBI wrote in its 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.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a leading industry group, also pointed out that NICS check numbers reported by the FBI include checks for gun-carry permits. The group’s own analysis of the report found 2017 was the fourth-highest year on record for gun checks. They said the slow down compared with 2016 was expected but considered 2017 a historically strong year regardless.
While the NSSF is right that those NICS checks do include some carry permit background checks, what doesn’t show are states where a carry permit can be used on a gun purchase instead of a background check or face-to-face sales. In fact, using the number of NICS checks as a proxy for gun sales isn’t particularly unusual.
Yet even if you hold to the NSSF’s assessment, there still isn’t much of a Trump Slump for gun sales.
This is good as it will help manufacturers purge their backlog soon, thus letting these companies get back to business as usual. At least, business as usual until we get stuck with another anti-gun Democrat in the Oval Office.
At that point, we’ll probably get a replay of the Obama administration and his status as “gun salesman of the year” for eight straight years. It’ll just be another photo on the plaque at many gun stores instead of his.
But for now, we’ve got a good thing going. Gun companies will hopefully soon find themselves out of the woods and the industry as a whole will start growing, which counts as a win for we consumers.
One thing’s for sure, claims that guns were bought simply because there was a black man in the White House should be thoroughly disproven along with the myth of a Trump Slump.