2017 was Alabama's fifth busiest for background checks

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With the dust settled on another unpredictable year for the gun industry, Guns.com is taking a deeper look at state-level federal background check data.

First up is Alabama, where 2017 just cracked the state’s top five busiest for background checks since the FBI began keeping track in 1998.

Dealers statewide processed more than 477,000 applications through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System last year, a 22 percent decline over 2016 — the busiest on record for checks nationwide. In Alabama, however, it was 2015 that saw a rapid uptick in NICS applications — and by proxy, gun sales — with more than 737,000 checks conducted that year alone. Since then, checks have fallen 35 percent, according to federal data.

Over 53 percent of last year’s checks represented permit applications and renewals. Guns.com estimates sales by calculating the sum total of transfers in the NICS’s handgun, long gun, multiple and other categories — though it’s not a perfect measurement. Aside from permit checks, 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.

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In Alabama, dealers transferred nearly 98,000 handguns and more than 82,000 long guns last year. Mimicking historical trends for the industry, background checks picked up speed in the last three months of the year as hunters returned to the woods and the holiday shopping season kicked into high gear.

Estimated long gun sales doubled in fourth quarter 2017 compared to the preceding three months. Handgun sales finished the year strong, too, edging out the first quarter of the year by less than 1,000 checks.

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