Handgun checks hit one month boon in the south

The pendulum swung far into the positive in February as states across the southeast recorded surges in federal background checks for handguns.

Five states — Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky and West Virginia — processed more than twice as many applications for handgun purchases through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System last month compared to January.

Handgun interest in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia ticked up by more than a third and Mississippi saw the biggest gains at 65 percent over January.

Louisiana and Florida reported modest increases of 18 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

The boon follows a historically slow month nationwide for background checks in January, which saw decreases of more than 43 percent from the last month of 2016 — the system’s biggest year on record.

Likewise, the south’s recent surge still lags behind February 2016 numbers by up to 26 percent in most states. Florida and Virginia sustained losses of just 5 percent, while North Carolina’s checks are only down 9 percent, according to NICS data.

Alabama serves as the one notable exception on the other end of the spectrum: checks for handguns are down 63 percent over last year.

Federal background checks nationwide rebounded last month after bottoming out in January, though applications remain down overall compared to 2016.

Industry analysts use background checks as a proxy for gun sales, although it is an imperfect measure because NICS doesn’t capture when multiple firearms are sold to one buyer.

The latest numbers point toward the stagnation industry analysts predicted would occur under the new, gun-friendly presidential administration.

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