Over 2 Million NICS Checks Each Month So Far This Year

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

NICS checks are often used as a proxy for firearm sales. While it’s an imperfect measurement, it’s about the best we have. While multiple guns can be transferred under a single check, that’s somewhat balanced by the face-to-face sales. Over the years, NICS checks have given us a good clue as to what the gun market looks like at the moment.


And based on what we’re seeing, gun sales are doing quite well.

Thus far, 2019 is the first year in which NICS firearm background checks have surpassed 2 million every month from January through June, since the NICS database was created.

According to news reports: “The number of background checks in the NICS system has been generally increasing for the life of the system. There are many reasons for this. The general population has been increasing. The number of guns being sold per capita has increased, especially when there have been political threats of gun bans and increased restrictions on gun buying and gun ownership.

Those are certainly valid reasons, though I don’t think that’s all of them. Further, none of that accounts for this increase at the same time gun manufacturers are struggling.

So what gives?

Well, this is pure speculation on my part, but I think a few things are going on. One is that inventory surplus is still being drawn upon, which means the manufacturers aren’t needed quite as much at the moment. There was a big buildup leading into the 2016 election, as pretty much everyone thought Hillary Clinton was going to be elected. When she wasn’t, the expected demand for those guns just wasn’t there. That left a lot of guns to sit and wait to be purchased.

Further, some people prefer to sell their used guns through a gun store rather than trying to arrange a face-to-face transfer. With social media rules being what they are, trying to find a buyer can be a pain in the posterior. Dropping a gun off at the gun store and letting them sell it, though, is a lot simpler.


However, if the store sells the gun, they’re going to perform a NICS check, which may give a slight bump to those numbers. Couple that with the fact that if you change your mind and decide to keep the gun, when you pick it up you have to go through another NICS check, and there’s a lot of ways the numbers can skew one way or another.

Another thing that may be contributing to this is the increase in states requiring universal background checks.

While it’s quite easy to bypass universal background checks if you want to, most law-abiding gun owners are just that, law-abiding. They’ll follow the law, even if they think it’s stupid. Because of that, guns that ordinarily wouldn’t have been counted toward these numbers now are.

Regardless of why the Trump Slump is a thing, while NICS checks are increasing, the one takeaway that we should all focus on is that millions of Americans each and every month are embracing the right to keep and bear arms. Regardless of anything else, that is something to celebrate.

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