The FBI has reported final NICS checks for the month of April, and it was the second-highest figure for the 30-day reporting period on record. At 2,045,564, it’s short of 2015’s April high-water mark of 2,145,865 but more than 300,000 above any other since the federal background-check program began in 1998.
Each check doesn’t necessarily reflect a gun purchase, but it’s accepted as a relative barometer of sales. Even before the latest report, trends were reflecting positively enough that the price of Ruger and American Outdoor Brands (formerly Smith & Wesson) stocks were rebounding fast enough to catch the attention of financial periodical Motley Fool. “The apocalypse many analysts thought would befall the firearms industry following the election of Donald Trump as president seems to have been postponed,” it reported. “While the number of background checks conducted over the first three months of 2017 are running about 12 percent below last year’s breakneck pace, they’re still 20 percent higher than they were in 2015, which was a record year itself.”
When January’s figures came in third place for the reporting period, gloomy forecasts dominated industry news. That number was 2,043,184, behind last year’s roughly 2.5 million and nearly equally distant from 2013’s figure. When February remained in third place on the charts, some claimed it confirmed analysts’ worries.
March, however, closed the gap significantly with the top-two—2016 and 2014. Less than 100,000 separated the three.
This month’s background checks confirm American Outdoor Brands CEO James Debney’s comment during an earnings call that we’re experiencing a new normal in industry growth. Ruger CEO Mike Fifer concurred in his comments to investors, explaining, “I doubt that the new normal will be materially lower than where we were going before.”