2018 May NICS Background Checks: HIGHEST ON RECORD


May 2018 set a new record for the number of National Instant Background Checks conducted by the FBI with a total of 2,002,992. The next highest May was in 2017, at 1,942,677. Before that, the next highest May was in 2016, at 1,870,000. Notice a trend?

There were numerous predictions that President Trump would preside over an era of decreasing firearm sales. In fact, firearm sales dropped a little from the record levels in the 2016 presidential election year, but not much. 2017 had the second highest ever yearly total NICS checks. 2018 is trending higher than 2017. In 2017, at the end of May, the total NICS checks were 10,699,334. In 2018, they are 11,357,627. That is 97% of the number of the top year, 2016, 11,698,006.

Ninety-seven percent of the the all time record does not a bad year make.

One reason is the booming Trump economy, with the stock market at new highs, unemployment at record lows, and consumer confidence soaring.

Combine the good economic news with the push by Democrats and the left/media for more restrictions on gun ownership and use, and the record numbers make sense. Much of the push for gun bans and restrictions are for modern sporting rifles such as the AR-15 and clones. These rifles, as a class, are the most popular rifles in the United States. They are one of the most easily recognizable rifles in the nation. Millions of Americans own them and shoot them. It may be that millions more Americans want them, but haven’t purchased them yet.

Highly restrictive laws on ownership and use have passed in California, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Those states have Democrat administrations. It does not take a doctorate in political science for Americans in other states to understand the potential if Democrats are elected in their state.

When more restrictive laws are pushed nationally and locally, many who have been considering gun purchases are motivated to take the next step.

NICS numbers do not translate directly into increases in the private stock of guns in the United States. Many NICS checks are done on guns that are in the existing stock. Gun stores do NICS checks on guns that have been traded in, purchased from an estate, or sold on consignment. Many NICS checks are done for people who obtain carry permits. In half of the states, once the NICS check is done for a carry permit, more NICS checks are not required for further purchases as long as the carry permit is valid.

Also, one NICS check can be used to purchase multiple firearms in one transaction.

The estimate for the number of privately owned firearms in the United States at the end of 2017 was 418 million. In the first five months of 2018, using a conservative estimate of .56 new guns for each NICS check, over 6 million additional firearms have been added. That brings the estimated total to 424 million so far. The total is likely to exceed 430 million guns by the end of 2018.

The number of private firearms in the United States has been calculated using the method pioneered by Newton and Zimring, then extended by Dr. Gary Kleck in his seminal work, “Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America” Table 2.1.

The methodology used by Kleck was applied to  the figures obtained from the ATF for years after 1987.  The number shown is the cumulative addition of domestic manufacture plus imports minus exports.  This does not count guns shipped to the U.S. military.   The figures are rounded to the nearest million. The figures for 2017 and 2018 are estimated from the NICS checks.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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About the Author

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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