July's estimated gun sales sink to lowest level of 2018

Estimated gun sales in July hit the lowest level recorded this year, according to federal data.

Dealers processed 1.8 million applications through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System last month, a 4 percent increase over 2017. Estimated gun sales — the sum of transfers in the NICS’s handgun, long gun, multiple and other categories — declined 10 percent and totaled just 759,968, the slowest month so far this year and the worst July since 2014.

The slump falls within the industry’s historical seasonal pattern — slow in the summer with a gradual ramp-up as fall gives way to hunting season. Gun sales typically peak during the holidays and taper off again in the spring, federal data suggests.

Dealers processed nearly 437,000 applications for handguns and just under 277,000 applications for long guns in July. The latter represents a 10-year low for the category, according to FBI data.

NICS checks serve as a proxy measure for gun sales, albeit an imperfect one. Applications for concealed carry permits, periodic rechecks for 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. Guns.com removes these categories from the total figure to more accurately assess actual transfers, though it’s still an estimate.

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. So far in 2018, these administrative-type checks have inflated monthly totals, but haven’t translated into boosted sales.

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