Estimated gun sales in February defy expectations

(Source: NICS/FBI)

(Source: NICS/FBI)

Estimated firearm sales dipped slightly last month, despite a wave of gun control proposals introduced in the wake of the Parkland shooting.

Dealers processed just shy of 2.3 million applications through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in February, 3.1 percent higher than 2017.

Estimated gun sales — the sum total of transfers in the NICS’s handgun, long gun, multiple and other categories — exceeded 1.1 million, a 2.5 percent decline over last year and the slowest February recorded since 2014.

Background checks serve as a proxy measure for gun sales, albeit an imperfect one. 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. removes these categories from the total figure to more accurately assess actual transfers, though it’s still an estimate.

Given the politically-charged atmosphere sweeping across the nation since a 19-year-old gunman murdered 17 students and staff at his former high school in southern Florida last month, however, the stage was set for an anticipated bump in federal background checks.

It’s a trend often witnessed after other high-profile mass shootings. In December 2012 — the same month as Sandy Hook — gun sales spiked 61 percent. The second half of the month accounted for eight of the biggest days for background checks that year. Four of them made the FBI’s top 10 busiest days ever list and the week after the shooting still ranks as the single busiest week in NICS history.

Maskin Netrebov, founder of New Jersey-based Maks Financial Services and contributor at Seeking Alpha, suggested last month’s “tepid at best” response comes after years of empty threats over gun control.

“In the most likely case, gun owners simply went out and purchased AR-15 lower receivers from companies such as Spikes Tactical for $100 a piece to throw in their gun safes or closets,” he said. “This way, if there is further gun control on the horizon, they will be able to complete their rifles in the future.”

While he posits evidence of increased buying may not materialize until the March data becomes available, Netrebov remains unimpressed.

“Short of outright new legislation, the gun buyers in this country are seemingly out of money and out of fears of imminent legislation which would restrict their firearms purchases,” he said.

James Debney, chief executive officer of American Outdoor Brands, told investors last week the outdoor conglomerate hadn’t heard much about increased sales in the second half of the month, either. He also didn’t anticipate any losses from the corporate backlash against modern sporting rifles.

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