Reports show manufacturing dipping, record high background checks

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ most recent report on U.S. gun manufacturing and exports indicates the nation saw a dip in firearms production in 2014.

This report, released in February, comes at a time of record numbers of firearm-related background checks being processed by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. In fact, this February NICS processed 2.6 million background checks: the third-highest amount for a single month since November 1998, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation began processing criminal background checks for firearms purchases.

Only December 2015 and December 2012 had higher numbers of gun-related background check applications than last month.

According to the ATF’s report, in 2014 gun manufacturers produced about 3.6 million pistols, 3.4 million rifles, 935,000 shotguns, 744,000 revolvers and 358,000 miscellaneous firearms.

This represents a decline from 2013‘s numbers, though it’s still an increase over the numbers in 2011 and 2012 — a year when firearm production numbers were triple the number produced in 2000.

In 2013 — the year following the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting — manufacturers produced 4.4 million pistols, 4 million rifles, 1.2 million shotguns, 725,000 revolvers and 495,000 miscellaneous firearms.

Gary Kleck, a criminologist from Florida State University who specializes in gun research, attributes the drop-off from 2013 to 2014 to a winding-down of the “Obama Effect,” as his term in office nears its end, The Washington Post reported.

Kleck said the rise in firearms manufacturing numbers over the past several years is likely related to “people (unrealistically) anticipating that the Obama administration would implement strict gun controls,” and rushing out to buy up firearms. This has likely slacked off as his term has come to an end without any strict gun control actions coming to pass.

However, Kleck also pointed out that “by historical standards” 2014’s production numbers were still high, even if they weren’t as high as 2013’s numbers.

While the number of background checks performed is generally a good measuring stick for the number of firearm sales that have occurred, it’s not perfect. For instance, one check might be performed for the sale of several guns, and NICS is also used by states to process background checks for concealed weapons permits.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association dedicated to promoting and preserving hunting and shooting sports in the U.S., releases revised NICS numbers each month, subtracting the background checks performed by states to determine eligibility for carry permits. Last month, background check numbers were revised down by more than one million.

Several states have reported increases in citizens seeking carry permits in recent years, as more cases of gun violence have received higher-profile media coverage.