Estimated gun sales fell 8 percent in January, according to an analysis of FBI data published this week.
Dealers processed more than 1.9 million applications through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System last month — less than 2 percent behind 2017.
Estimated gun sales — the sum total of transfers in the NICS’s handgun, long gun, multiple and other categories — exceeded 955,000, an 8 percent decline over last year and the slowest January recorded since 2012.
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.
These types of background checks have consumed larger percentages of the total amount recorded each month since the banner year of 2016, federal data shows.
Maksim Netrebov, founder of New Jersey-based Maks Financial Services and contributor at Seeking Alpha, said this reality leads to some optimistic interpretations of the “true health” of the firearms industry. He notes the adjusted background check figure trails January 2016 by more than 31 percent.
“The biggest drop year over year is in handgun checks, further cementing that it is a drop in new shooters who will more often than not, start their firearms purchases with handguns,” he said.
Dealers transferred 501,638 handguns and 337,587 long guns in January, according to federal data. Handgun transfers dropped by 60,000 over last year while long guns fell roughly 30,000.
The numbers sent share prices for gun makers tumbling Monday — the second piece of bad news plaguing the industry after Barclays forecasted continued weakness in hunting product sales, according to Seeking Alpha.
Smith & Wesson’s holding company, American Outdoor Brands, closed 6 percent down Monday. Sturm, Ruger and Co. and Vista Outdoor fell 3.5 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively.