Dealers processed nearly 1.9 million applications through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System last month. Estimated gun sales — the sum of transfers in the NICS’s handgun, long gun, multiple and other categories — declined more than 9 percent and totaled just 853,226.
Dealers processed nearly 435,000 applications for handguns and just under 371,000 applications for long guns last month. The latter represents the slowest September ever recorded in nearly two decades of FBI data. Likewise, long gun tallies for July and August sank to 10-year lows, returning to levels not seen since before the election of former President Barack Obama.
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.
Historical patterns for the industry suggest checks and sales will ramp up again as the holiday season nears — typically the busiest time for retailers. Publicly traded gun companies — including Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger and Company — consider fall and winter months the most profitable.