Gun checks hit an annual high in December, continuing the industry trend of peaking around the holiday season, according to federal data.
Dealers processed more than 2.5 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 — fell nearly 8 percent over 2017 and totaled 1,429,269. It was the slowest December for sales recorded since 2012.
Dealers processed nearly 712,365 applications for handguns and just over 640,496 applications for long guns last month — the busiest for each category all year long.
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. In 2018, these administrative-type checks consistently inflated monthly totals, but never translated into boosted sales. The year ranked the second busiest in FBI history for background checks, but only ranked fourth for estimated sales.