Gun industry heads into historically slow season 10 percent behind 2016

As the firearms industry heads into its historically slower season this summer, estimated gun sales remain 10 percent behind last year.

A analysis of background check data shows dealers sold an estimated 4.5 million guns through the first four months of 2017 — about half a million less than this time last year, the biggest ever for federal background checks.

The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System serves a proxy for gun sales nationwide, but is an imperfect measurement of actual firearms sold. So far this year, 8.7 million applications have been processed through NICS, however estimates only 51 percent of those resulted in a gun transfer.

Although the industry’s performance trails last year, April eclipsed its 2016 numbers — the best on record — by more than 4,400 estimated sales, according to FBI data.

Total background checks declined 5 percent over last year, though adjusted totals — calculated by removing applications processed for concealed carry permits — came in at just 391 checks above 2016.

Dealers ran background checks on more than 623,000 handguns and 376,000 long guns throughout the month, according to federal data.

So far this year, applications for more than 2.6 million handguns and 1.6 million long guns have been processed, down 12 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation said last month the annual economic impact of the firearms and ammunition industry increased nearly 15 percent last year to $51.3 billion. Since 2008, the industry’s full time equivalent jobs have nearly doubled to more than 300,000 nationwide.

“Our industry is proud of its strong contribution to our economy as a growing number of Americans have chosen to exercise their fundamental right to keep and bear arms and to safely enjoy the shooting sports,” said Stephen L. Sanetti, NSSF president and chief executive officer in an April 10 press release.

“In response to that growing market, we have increased our direct workforce dramatically over the last decade, adding jobs that pay an average of more than $50,000 in wages and benefits. In addition, since 2008 we increased federal tax payments by 156 percent, Pittman-Robertson excise taxes that support wildlife conservation by 138 percent and state business taxes by 107 percent,” he said.

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