NSSF: Why Gun Sales Remain Strong

A look at the last twelve months of NSSF-Adjusted NICS data. (Photo: NSSF)

Editor’s Note: The following is a column written by Larry Keane, the senior vice president, assistant secretary and general counsel to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc.  It originally appeared on the NSSF website on June 8, 2017.  

We have now seen three straight months of steady or increasing NICS numbers.

May was a record-breaking month for firearm background checks—the highest number of checks for that typically slower sales month ever processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). In total, the FBI/NICS processed 1,942,677 checks, an increase of more than 70,000 from the May 2016 number. Our NSSF-adjusted NICS May figure of 988,473 shows an increase of 6.5 percent compared to the May 2016 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 928,532.

The adjusted NICS data are derived by subtracting out NICS purpose code permit checks and permit rechecks used by several states such as Connecticut, Illinois, and Utah for CCW permit application checks as well as checks on active CCW permit databases.

The NSSF-adjusted NICS data provide a snapshot of current market conditions, although it is not a direct one-to-one correlation to firearms sales. It is important to note that FBI/NICS and NSSF-adjusted NICS figures do not account for firearm sales using approved alternate permits such as a concealed carry license. Several states allow the use of such alternate permits. So, those sales are not captured.

In recent years, the mainstream media has developed a knack of speculating why gun sales go up—or go down—and they usually miss the complete picture. They tend to over-politicize the sales environment. Reporters look to consumer fear of more restrictive gun control laws, and point to acts of terrorism , mass-shootings. Make no mistake, these factors do play a role – they are just overemphasized most of the time.

Reporters rarely take much time to speak with retailers and gun owners about why they own guns or why the industry is seeing growing or steady sales. They like to report on months when sales dip and ignore or downplay months when they rise – unless there is a mainstream media political narrative popular at the time.

Looking at NSSF-Adjusted NICS data for the month of May over the past 18 years.  (Photo: NSSF)

Although we at NSSF point this out all the time and we are often quoted, the underlying sales factor that gets short shrift is that more people are participating in the shooting sports. While many new shooters first try their hand with a rental or loaner, active participation in a shooting sport generally leads individuals to buy a gun—and quite often, as their interest grows, more than one. Individuals who first buy a firearm for self-defense often find they enjoyed the initial training and returning to practice their marksmanship. They buy a second gun and, often, seek additional training.

The data show that target shooting participation in the U.S. increased 44 percent from 34.4 million Americans in 2009 to 49.4 million Americans in 2016. The shooting sports are an engaging pursuit offering numerous opportunities for participation available to people of all ages. New shooters are younger, are more female and increasing diverse in ethnicity. The shooting sports are affordable, accessible, and more inclusive than ever before and people are taking full advantage. Even if the industry has room to become more welcoming and inclusive, our customer base is changing along with the American population. They are buying firearms and going to the range. All are welcome.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Mike Watkins June 25, 2017, 2:16 am

    The NICS numbers are not “fake news.” I know gun dealers who are saying sales are terrible, just like a couple of the commenters on this article. But nationally, firearms sales are still high, they are just going to someone other than small Mom and Pop dealers.

    It’s a completely different world from 50 years ago, or even 5 years ago. Just about everyone is now convinced that before you buy ANYTHING, you should check the internet to see what the best prices are. One dealer I’m acquainted with tries to make $100 on every firearm sale. And he’s a small dealer who does not get the best prices from distributors. When he prices a firearm for $400, the majority of his customers have already seen it advertised on the internet for $300. No wonder his sales are poor!

    If you can’t compete with the internet retailer prices and the sale prices of the big box stores, better find another way to make a living. It’s evolution in action–adapt or die!

  • PWD June 23, 2017, 11:31 pm

    This is pure bunk! After 35 years in the gun business, I have never seen it this slow! Manufacturers are laying off people, selling guns way below cost in order to move merchandise! One local dealer is giving away a AR-15 every week for the next six week. To enter all one needs to do is walk into his store! No purchase necessary! One entry per day. Another dealer is selling Taurus 809’s for $399 and giving the customer a Taurus 709 free. DPMS Oracles are being sold for $399 when the dealer cost is $459.99 after being reduced $100 from a year ago. So if sales are up it is because the manufacturers and distributors and dealers are giving them away. Great for the consumer but not healthy for the industry. Traffic sucks and sales are worst. Overstocked with no cash flow is not a fun way to do business!

  • Jeff B June 23, 2017, 2:17 pm

    I work in the firearms industry and everything I am seeing locally and hearing from my national distributors, is the exact opposite of what this article is saying. Where are the customers?
    Between internet “Low Balling” and “Big Box” sporting goods stores selling at or below wholesale costs the small brick and mortar store are going under.

  • ~ Occams June 23, 2017, 9:38 am

    Perhaps because Trump has shown no sign of upholding the 2nd Amendment, as he promised, and, in fact, in another article here, has just added/allowed to be added, another weapon?

    • Edgar June 23, 2017, 1:12 pm

      Perhaps you should comment on that article in the area appropriate for those comments.
      Your comments here simply appear that you are a Troll leaving your ridiculous excrement….and hoping that others will give you even a sliver of credibility.You have no credibility.We all know that President Trump is a strong supporter of our 2nd amendment rights as evidenced by his appointing
      Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Justice Gorsuch believes in interpreting the law as the Framers intended. He will follow the example of Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion in the most important Second Amendment decision in modern history, Trump has more Pro 2nd Amendment issues going…but the most significant is the Supreme Court appointment. This will last another 25-40 years.THANK YOU…. Mr Trump ! !

  • Rick June 23, 2017, 7:53 am

    People worried hillary would be our next president. She would put a liberal judge in and we all would be in deep trouble.

  • Will Drider June 21, 2017, 7:32 pm

    The DEEP DISCOUNTS are the reason fo the level of firearm sales. Slight variations of old/current designs are doing little to move inventory stock. We have Mfg’s producing firearms that are new to their line just to grab a bit more market share. It is a buyer market and offeres of free add on goodies or major rebates are luring buyers. The big name Mfg’s are dropping prices to compete with other Mfg budget offerings! In the past the only real market price fluctuations were with 1911s, when sales across the board (less top end Mfgs) dropped: prices dropped to spur increase sales.

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