Estimated gun sales hit seven-year low in August

09/7/18 7:00 AM | by

The counter at Precise Shooter, a sporting goods store in Lynnwood, Washington that recently moved from Seattle to escape that city’s gun tax. The store says they paid thousands in retail sales tax to Lynnwood instead. (Photo: Precise Shooter)

Estimated gun sales hit a seven-year low in August, according to federal data, despite background checks soaring to a new record high.

Dealers processed more than 2 million applications through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System last month, a 7 percent increase over 2017 and the busiest August ever recorded in FBI history. Estimated gun sales — the sum of transfers in the NICS’s handgun, long gun, multiple and other categories — declined 6 percent and totaled just 889,395, the slowest August since 2011.

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 479,000 applications for handguns and just under 362,000 applications for long guns in August. The latter represents a 10-year low for the category, mirroring a similar trend noticed in July.

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 consistently inflated monthly totals, but haven’t translated into boosted sales.

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