FBI Processes Record-Breaking Number of Background Checks

posted on April 2, 2020

On Friday, March 20, the FBI processed a record-setting 210,308 National Instant Criminal Background Check System checks (NICS). The previous title holder for the most in any 24-hour period was Black Friday 2017 with 203,086. Although some of those were for general administrative use and concealed carry permits and other duties, the figure is considered a relative barometer for overall firearm sales.

In addition, the week of March 16 to March 22 also took top honors in volume for a seven-day period, when nearly 1.2 million NICS checks were performed. That shattered a high-water mark that stood since December of 2012, which didn’t even manage to break the one-million barrier.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) announced this week that its estimates—based on NICS checks and backing out other known uses of the system—indicate firearm sales for the first quarter of 2020 (compared to 2019) are up 41.8 percent. Last month’s sales volume was 80.4 percent greater than a year ago. 

Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF), which uses a slightly different statistical model, estimates total firearms sold in March at 2,583,238, an 85.3 percent increase over March 2019. Handgun sales accounted for the bulk of the purchasing, with 1.84 pistols sold for every long gun. That’s the highest the ratio has been since the NICS checks system launched in 1998.

Although the system is a good relative gauge for the industry’s health, enthusiasts need to keep in mind that not all firearm sales are reflected in the numbers.

The NSSF explained in its press release this week that, “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.”


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