We, like many of our members, watched the NICS numbers all year. We read – and fact-checked – all of the claims about the “Trump Slump” and the imminent collapse of the entire firearms industry (see here, here, here, here, and here). Month after month, the narrative around the NICS data framed gun sales as waning because a new record wasn’t set. Bloomberg headlined its latest entry, “Gun Sales in America Drop.” The Chicago Tribune reported that “Holiday gun sales dip after record Black Friday.”
The FBI released the final NICS numbers for 2017. There were 25,235,215 total NICS checks in 2017 – making last year the second busiest year ever for the NICS office. Across all states, territories, and the District of Columbia, there were 7.2 million NICS checks related to handguns (not including private sales, rentals, returned, pre-pawn, or pawn redemption checks); 5.2 million for long guns; just under 400,000 for “other” firearms; and 236,167 checks for multiple purchases. More than 9.9 million Americans initiated a NICS check for a permit last year.
In terms of individual categories of NICS checks, 2017 ranks third for handgun-related NICS checks and second for “other” checks. In terms of total sales-related checks (handgun, long gun, other, and multiple), 2017 was the fourth-busiest year ever. It was also the second busiest year for permit checks.
Interest in defense and the shooting sports clearly remains strong; sure, NICS doesn’t provide a 1:1 proxy for gun sales but the FBI saw more than 13 million sales-related checks and almost 10 million permit checks. That equates to more than twenty-seven thousand permit checks and nearly thirty-six thousand sales-related checks every single day of the year.
Hopefully, we can put the claims of “Trump Slump” and of the demise of the firearms industry to rest along with the year 2017. The continued strong NICS numbers all year indicate that Americans’ interest in defending themselves and their families, and their interest in the shooting sports, is not dependent on the occupant of the White House. We fully expect the firearms industry to continue to support the passions shared by millions of law-abiding Americans throughout 2018.