NICS Checks Remain Flat For November

It’s probably not a real surprise, but it seems that NICS checks for the month of November were less than stellar.

Gun checks remained flat in November as estimated sales declined more than 10 percent, according to federal data.

Dealers processed nearly 2.4 million applications through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System last month. Estimated gun sales — the sum of transfers in the NICS’s handgun, long gun, multiple and other categories — fell 10.4 percent over 2017 and totaled 1,234,665.

Dealers processed nearly 583,000 applications for handguns and just over 568,000 applications for long guns last month. The latter represents the slowest November recorded since 2011. Likewise, long gun tallies for October sank to 10-year lows, returning to levels not seen since before the election of former President Barack Obama. September fared even worse, ranking dead last in the 20-year history of NICS.

NICS checks serve as a proxy measure for gun sales, albeit an imperfect one. Applications for concealed carry permits, periodic rechecks for licenses and a slew of smaller categories for pawns, redemptions, rentals and other rare situations undercut the total amount of checks processed in one month. removes these categories from the total figure to more accurately assess actual transfers, though it’s still an estimate.

Again, this isn’t surprising. Checks for Black Friday dropped significantly over last year, and that represents the biggest single shopping day of the year. Even for firearms. That alone could account for much of the moribund market for the month.

The real question is when will things perk up.

My guess is that we’ll start to see some improvement on firearm sales after the first of the year. Nancy Pelosi is likely to regain her role as Speaker of the House and she’s already vowed to make universal background checks a priority. We can also expect some move by the House to enact some kind of assault weapon ban. With their focus on semi-automatic weapons in general, that might trigger a buying frenzy that would do wonders for the industry as a whole.

Especially since it’s unlikely that the Senate would pass any such ban. The industry would get the benefits without any of the risks. There are worse ways to function as a business, right?

Of course, as the last quoted paragraph notes, this is all an estimate. We could be horribly wrong. Maybe most people bought three or four firearms at a time and it was actually a record month from the manufacturers’ perspectives.

I’d be thrilled to hear it. A vibrant firearm industry is a key bulwark against gun control measures. It permits us to frame the discussion as not just being about our Second Amendment rights, but people’s jobs as well. Even people who are squishy on rights understand jobs and economic impact (or at least like to pretend they do.)

Either way, this warrants more careful examination and study to look at trends. A slow month means nothing if the overall trend is positive. The opposite is also true.

We’ll just have to wait and see.