June 2020 Adjusted NICS Checks

The National Shooting Sports Foundation adjusted NICS figures have been released. June 2020, while having the most raw NICS checks on records, actually is behind March 2020 when adjusted for permit checks and rechecks.

Nonetheless, June was an impressive month and the first half of 2020 was likewise impressive.

From NSSF:

The June 2020 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 2,177,586 is an increase of 135.7 percent compared to the June 2019 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 924,054. For comparison, the unadjusted June 2020 FBI NICS figure 3,909,502 reflects a 70.6 percent increase from the unadjusted FBI NICS figure of 2,291,066 in June 2019.

The second quarter 2020 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 5,451,599 reflects an increase of 92.8 percent over the 2,827,606 figure for first quarter 2019.

The NSSF-adjusted NICS figure for March 2020 was 2,375,525.

It should be pointed out the states of Alabama and Michigan have had their qualified alternatives under the Brady Law removed in 2019 and 202 respectively. This means in those states, you can no longer use a carry permit as a substitute for a NICS check. That raised the percentage of NICS checks in those states by over 400% compared to last June.

To see how June 2020 compared to the month of June in past years, look at this graphic. You can see that it just skyrockets!

As I remind everyone when I post these numbers, neither the raw nor the adjusted-NICS checks are a one to one correlation with gun sales. They do not capture private sales where legal, they don’t capture sales where an alternative is accepted, and they don’t figure in multiple firearms sold with one NICS check. The Form 4473 has room on it for up to four firearms per transaction. Thus, it is safe to assume the actual number of firearms sold in the month of June is well past 2.1 million.

Now if all those new gun owners will vote the Second Amendment, we should be in good shape. Time will tell.

These Are Raw NICS Numbers But Still Wow!

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal Justice Information Services released the NICS background checks for the month of June 2020 yesterday. June was the highest month on record going back to November 1998.

For the month, the FBI conducted 3,931,607 checks. That beat the previous high in the month of March 2020 by almost 200,000.

Now remember these are raw numbers. Some of the checks were for carry permits, some were recurring checks for stuff like FOID cards, and many sales do not require a NICS check due to the purchaser holding a carry permit in certain states. Nonetheless, most probably were for firearm sales.

I can’t wait to see the NSSF adjusted NICS checks for the month. They should be available early next week.

UPDATE: Flight Doc asked for a link where he could enlarge or download the above chart. It can be downloaded as a PDF here.

April Was Another Banner Month For NICS Checks

April 2020 had the highest number of NSSF-adjusted NICS checks on record for the month of April in the past 21 years.

The April 2020 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System(NICS) figure of 1,678,223 is an increase of 69.1 percent compared to the April 2019 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 992,642. For comparison, the unadjusted April 2020 FBI NICS figure 2,878,176 reflects a 24.9 percent increase from the unadjusted FBI NICS figure of 2,305,136 in April 2019.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation adjusts the raw NICS data to remove those checks done for permits such as FOID cards from Illinois and for CCWs in many states. While it isn’t a one-to-one ratio of firearm sales, it is indicative of trends in sales by made through dealers and in those states requiring universal background checks. What it doesn’t show are most private sales as well as sales made to those who hold a carry permit that substitutes for a NICS check such as in North Carolina.

Adjusted NICS Checks Skyrocket In March

The National Shooting Sports Foundation released their NSSF-Adjusted NICS checks report for March 2020. It shows an 80% increase over March 2019!

The March 2020 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 2,375,525 is an increase of 80.4 percent compared to the March 2019 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,317,114. For comparison, the unadjusted March 2020 FBI NICS figure 3,709,562 reflects a 42.4 percent increase from the unadjusted FBI NICS figure of 2,604,927 in March 2019.

Please note: Twenty-five states currently have at least one qualified alternative permit, which under the Brady Act allows the permit-holder, who has undergone a background check to obtain the permit, to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer without a separate additional background check for that transfer. The number of NICS checks in these states does not include these legal transfers based on qualifying permits and NSSF does not adjust for these transfers. Recently, the states of Alabama and Michigan had law changes that affected their Brady Law standing which removed qualifying alternate permits usage for firearm transactions. These changes went into effect July 22, 2019 for Alabama and March 3, 2020 forMichiganIn March 2020, Alabama state’s NSSF-adjusted NICS was 212.1 percent higher than March 2019, which accounts for an additional 41,348 checks over this time last year. March 2020 NICS numbers for Michigan were up 210.8% over March 2019 and account for an additional 57,599 checks.

The NSSF adjusts the gross number of NICS checks to subtract out checks that are used by states for issuing permits such as concealed carry permits and permit rechecks.

It should be noted that there is not a 100% direct correlation with firearm sales as there are states which have substitutes for the NICS check and a NICS check isn’t performed on that sale or purchase. Moreover, if one is purchasing multiple firearms at the same time, a single NICS check will usually suffice. Of course, in many free states, no check of any sort is done on private sales regardless of the type of firearm.

What this increase shows, in my opinion, is that there are a lot of people waking up and realizing that they must be responsible for their own safety and that of their family. One would hope that many of these new firearms owners – especially those who had to jump through all sorts of hoops and waiting periods – will now become Second Amendment advocates.

Even My Local TV Station Is Talking About NICS Checks

When even your local mid-size market TV station is reporting on Black Friday NICS checks, you know it is a big deal.

Black Friday firearm sales appear to have very, very good. While the FBI’s NICS checks are also used for carry permit background checks (among other things), they still are a good indicator of trends in firearm sales.

According to a story posted by my local TV station, WLOS, there were 202,465 NICS checks run on Black Friday. Put another way, that is one every 4.85 seconds.

As USA Today notes:

The FBI fielded more than 200,000 background checks on Black Friday gun purchases, continuing a steady surge this year following a series of mass shootings that have renewed calls for more restrictive gun laws.

In all, the bureau posted 202,465 checks Friday, an 11% increase from last year and falling just short of the single-day record: 203,086 in 2017.

I would love to see the exact numbers for Virginia where many gun control proposals are sure to reach Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk. As it is, we do have the numbers for the entire month of November and they are up approximately 5,000 compared to 2018. It should be noted that virtually all the NICS checks in Virginia are for sales and not permit checks.

To put Virginia in context, let’s compare it to Georgia which has approximately 2 million more residents. Georgia’s NICS checks for only firearms for November 2019 totaled 29,826. Virginia, meanwhile, had a total of 56,661 checks for only firearms. If we needed any clearer evidence that fear of future gun control can drive sales, this is it.

Was This Intended Or Unintended?

Where you place paragraphs in a story makes a difference and can lead to different interpretations of your argument. Today’s Wall Street Journal provides an excellent example of it in a story on the flaws of the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The story is in the Southeast paper edition of the Journal but does not appear online. The only thing online is an infographic on the failures of the system.

Consider this paragraph.

And then there are private sales. Background checks aren’t always required when sales are made by private sellers, those people who make only occasional guns sales from private collections.

It was immediately followed by this paragraph.

Several mass-shooters have purchased guns they shouldn’t have been able to buy. 

The story by Ashby Jones then goes on to give examples of how both the Virginia Tech mass-murderer and the Sutherland Spring First Baptist mass-murderer were able to obtain their weapons, though prohibited persons, after passing a FBI NICS check. The story does detail how the Virginia court and the US Air Force had failed to submit the records for inclusion in the FBI’s databases.

By placing the second paragraph immediately after the paragraph on private sales, the reader is at first led to believe that the mass-murderers obtained their firearms from a private seller which we know was not the case.

If that second paragraph had added “due to the failure to submit disqualifying records to the NICS database” or “even though they passed background checks”, then it would be understood that the killers obtained their firearms due to a failure of the system and not due to the negligence or greed of a private seller.

Is this a case of unintended juxtaposition? Is it a case of tight editing for brevity in the second paragraph? Or is it, more problematically, a case of using the structure of the story to convey an argument for so-called universal background checks.

I don’t know but I do know that the wrong impression is initially given by the structure of the story.

If this came from the New York Times or the Washington Post I would say it was intended to mislead. Since the Wall Street Journal tends to be more neutral on firearms issues, I could go either way. Nonetheless, this is a case of the mainstream media, intentionally or unintentionally, pushing the narrative for universal background checks which is wrong.

The Sky Is Not Falling For Gun Sales

Gun sales in 2012, 2015, and 2016 were so high as to be outside the norm. They were at least one, if not two, standard deviations from the long term average. We know much of the difference was driven by outside events such as the Newtown murders and the widely-assumed probability that Hillary Clinton would succeed Obama as president. What we are seeing in 2017 is a return to the norm but at a higher level.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation just released their adjusted-NICS figure for December 2017. The figure of 1.6 million NICS checks was down 12% from the prior year. That said, it still was the 5th highest December for the adjusted NICS checks on record.

Elsewhere, I’ve read that 2017 was the fourth highest year on record for gun sales as measured by the NSSF adjusted NICS checks. In terms of unadjusted NICS checks, it was the second highest year on record after 2016.

It is important to remember that NICS checks in and of themselves do not have a one-to-one correlation with gun sales. There can be more than one firearm on a single Form 4473. Likewise, carry permits from states like North Carolina and Texas substitute for NICS checks. Finally, many states use the NICS system for their original and continuing checks on those that they’ve issued carry permits.

I will be heading to the SHOT Show which begins in two weeks. I will be reporting regularly on what I’m seeing and what I’m hearing. I am particularly interested in the tenor of conversations I have with dealers.

New One-Day NICS Check Record Set

A new one-day NICS background check record was set on this year’s Black Friday or the day after Thanksgiving. USA Today reports the FBI processed 203,086 background check requests on November 24th. This compares to 185,713 checks last year which had been the previous all-time one-day record.

According to FBI records, four out of the five highest days have been Black Friday. This includes the years 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014. The outlier was the Friday before Christmas 2012. This was two days after then-President Obama said he planned to submit new gun control legislation to Congress in the aftermath of the shootings in Newtown, CT.

As I always caution, while NICS checks are a stronger indicator of firearm sales, there is not a one-to-one correlation between check and a firearm purchase. A check could be used for the purchase of more than one firearm. Furthermore, in many states, concealed carry permits substitute for the NICS check on a purchase. Finally, NICS background checks are used by some states as part of the carry permit process though I think it probably could be assumed that few of Friday’s checks were related to carry permits.

NICS Checks Down For June

The National Shooting Sports Foundation adjusted figure for June 2017 shows a 10.9% decline from the same month in 2016.

From NSSF:

The June 2017 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 1,016,213 is a decrease of 10.9 percent compared to the June 2016 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,140,088. For comparison, the unadjusted June 2017 FBI NICS figure 1,888,266 reflects an 11.1 percent decrease from the unadjusted FBI NICS figure of 2,123,334 in June 2016.

You can see that graphically below:

However, if you study that graphic and read the numbers you should realize that the sky isn’t falling. It is the second highest June on record and the NSSF-adjusted NICS number is still over 1 million checks. Gun sales are probably down from last summer when it appeared that anti-gun Hillary Clinton was going to ride into office after defeating what the media and the experts considered a weak and absurd Republican nominee. Of course we know now that she was the weak candidate and that Donald Trump wasn’t that weak of a candidate.

As with all reports of NICS figures it should be remembered that they do not have a perfect correlation with firearm sales. In many states a carry permit substitutes for a NICS check. Moreover, the NICS check system is also used by many states for permit background checks and rechecks. The NSSF allows for these checks and rechecks when making their adjustments to the reported monthly NICS figures.

NICS Checks Resume Upward Path

The National Shooting Sports Foundation has released it latest adjusted-NICS data. The March 2017 adjusted-NICS checks have resumed their upward path that had been on hold since the election of Donald Trump. The adjusted-NICS checks had shown a year over year increase for the same month in the prior year throughout 2016 until the month of December when it showed a sharp decrease from the prior year. This also held true for the months of January and February 2017. The drop has been attributed to the end of panic buying in anticipation of new gun control measures from a President Hillary Clinton.

You can see this trend in the graphic below:

The numbers as reported by NSSF are as follows:

The March 2017 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 1,356,929 is an increase of 5.2 percent compared to the March 2016 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,289,670. For comparison, the unadjusted March 2017 FBI NICS figure of 2,422,749 reflects a 3.4 percent decrease from the unadjusted FBI NICS figure of 2,509,065 in March 2016.

The first quarter 2017 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 3,693,502 is a decrease of 10.8 percent over the 4,139,791 figure for first quarter 2016.

Even with this quarterly drop as compared to the prior year, March 2017 still was the second highest March on record.

NICS data is more indicative of trends than an actual one-to-one sale of firearms. This is due to certain states using the NICS check system for CCW permit background checks and permit rechecks as well as the exemption from a NICS check for holding of carry permits from certain states like North Carolina.