Last month was the busiest June for gun sales ever. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for firearms manufacturers, follows the FBI-administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) closely. The NSSF said gun dealers had completed 886,825 background checks in June. The NSSF said this is “the highest June on record for the 17-year-old system.” It was an increase of 10.1 percent compared to the June 2014 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 805,571.
Some news reports have said this jump in sales is all about gun owners’ worry about more gun control coming in the wake of the horrific attack on parishioners on June 17 at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The thing is this can’t be the whole story as May 2015 was also a record-setting month for background checks.
For answers I contacted Jim Curcuruto, director, industry research & analysis for the NSSF. He said, “Background checks were up over 19 percent in South Carolina, as compared to the previous June, but that one state isn’t enough to make the NICS checks jump 10 percent nationally. So, after making a lot of calls, we found that some of the bump was related to sales and other deals at retail chains. Some was definitely related to fear of more gun control. There are also typically spikes in sales regionally after something occurs that prompts people to look for ways to protect their own lives. But there has also been a steady rise in gun sales for some time. So there were multiple factors involved.”
Of course, we’re talking about NICS checks here, not actual gun sales. Just because someone undergoes a background check doesn’t mean they necessarily purchased a gun; also, someone could by multiple guns after a single background check. This is why NICS figures are seen only as an indicator of the volume in gun sales.