Despite a general drop-off in new gun purchases earlier this year and an overall decline in 2015 from an unprecedented seven-year boom, firearms transactions experienced a record spike the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally one of the biggest days in retail sales in the U.S.
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) reports it processed 185,345 transactions on Nov. 27, 2015, setting a Black Friday—and single-day—record of more than 185,000, nearly three checks per second.
The total number of 185,345 transactions exceeds the previous record day for NICS checks of December 21, 2012, when more than 177,000 background checks took place.
Historically, the agency brings in 100 extra employees to deal with the increase during the heavy buying periods. Nearly 600 FBI and contract call center employees work up to 17-hours in an attempt to complete the background reviews in three business days, as required by law.
Typically, the NICS is available daily from 8 a.m. until 1 a.m. EST. To better accommodate the long-standing history of record-breaking volume on Black Friday, the FBI started the NICS in-service at 4:30 a.m. EST for NICS E-Check Users and for state Point of Contact (POC) programs. The NICS Contracted Call Center opened, as normal, at 8 a.m. EST.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation reports that during the entire Nov. 26-29 2015 four-day Black Friday period, 368,774 checks were completed, a 9.9 percent increase over the 335,555 checks conducted over the corresponding 2014 4-day period.
While a NICS check does not precisely indicate the sale of individual firearms, it correlates closely and is considered by the industry as an accurate indicator of sales and demand. Based on varying state laws and purchase scenarios, a one-to-one correlation cannot be made between a firearm background check and a firearm sale.