Estimated gun sales rose 30 percent last month, according to federal data.
Dealers processed more than 2.3 million applications through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in November — a 17 percent increase over October. Estimated gun sales — the sum total of transfers in the NICS’s handgun, long gun, multiple and other categories — exceeded 1.3 million, representing a 30 percent spike in just one month.
The strong sales data makes November this year’s second busiest for background checks so far. Last month’s sales trail 2016, the industry’s biggest on record, by 13 percent, though it still ranks as the second highest November in the background check system’s two-decade history.
Background checks serve as a proxy measure for gun sales, however, the measurement isn’t perfect. Applications for concealed carry permits, periodic rechecks for maintaining 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. Also, dealers submit one background check application per sale — not per gun purchased.
Gun makers and retailers alike anticipated the boost in demand as the holiday shopping season approached — historically the industry’s most profitable time of year. Background checks on Black Friday broke records, clocking in at over 203,000 applications in just one day — the busiest in FBI history.
The robust background check figures bolstered stock prices for Sturm, Ruger and Co. and American Outdoor Brands last week. Both manufacturers still anticipate diminished annual earnings in comparison to the watermark year of 2016 — when multiple mass shootings and the fear of looming gun control under another four years of a Democratic presidential administration pressured consumers into buying guns and ammunition.
President Donald Trump’s surprise victory diminished threats of stricter firearm regulations, leaving manufacturers and retailers to sell off excess inventory at rock-bottom prices — a trend Vista Outdoor Chief Financial Officer Stephen Nolan predicts will level-out within the next 18 months “as the industry returns to slow growth.”