Of the 4,645,609 names processed through FBI’s National Instant Criminal Check System (NICS) in March, roughly 2.2 million were related to the purchase or transfer of a firearm, according to Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF).
Calculations by the National Shooting Sports Foundation put the number lower—at 2,044,136. Both figures represent a significant year-over-year drop of 15.1 and 14 percent respectively. Although few expected March 2020’s staggering and record-setting mark of 2.6 million would be eclipsed, news that volume during 2021’s first quarter shattered all previous 3-month marks was unexpected.
SAAF Chief Economist Jurgen Brauer noted the strong and steady sales since January.
“…[F]or the first quarter of 2021 as a whole, about 5.9 million firearms were sold as opposed to 5.2 million in the first quarter of 2020. If this rate of sales were to be sustained throughout 2021, last year’s record sales of 22.8 million would be broken,” he said.
NSSF estimates the first quarter of this year is the highest on record for volume of gun sales processed through the NICS system. March 2021 now holds second-place honors in firearm sales reflected through NICS. The same period last year claimed and still holds the highwater mark.
Total use of the FBI’s NICS system reached an all-time high last month, with a volume of 4,691,738 records processed. That figure includes a variety of administrative duties unrelated to the transfer of a gun, including the growing number of carry permits—applications, renewals and verification that current holders haven’t been charged with a disqualifying offense. Illinois alone accounted for 1.4 million for the latter purpose.
FBI NICS numbers do not include many private transfers of firearms, or those purchases made by valid concealed carry permit holders in regions of the nation where they are not required to undergo a redundant background check.