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NICS for May, 2024 Fith Highest Gun Sales, Sixth Highest NICS Checks

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The National Instant background Check System (NICS) numbers are in for May of 2024. May of 2024 shows the fifth highest estimated gun sales for May on record over the 25 years recorded in the NICS system. NICS shows May of 2024 to be the sixth highest number of NICS checks for May in the 25 years recorded. Gun sales are no longer reliably tied to the NICS checks because the checks are used for many other purposes than gun sales. The FBI system shows checks done for various categories of gun sales individually. This allows an estimate of gun sales to be calculated separately from the overall NICS checks.

The number of gun sales is an estimate because one NICS check can be used for multiple sales. Twenty-four states have at least one type of permit which allows for gun sales based on the check done to obtain the permit. Most private sales are not recorded in the NICS system. The vast majority of homemade guns are not recorded in the NICS system. Destruction of guns is not recorded in the NICS system.

Four types of gun sales shown by NICS for 2023 (lines) and 2024 (bars)

While the numbers for gun sales from NICS are an estimate, they are likely to be close to reality. Homemade guns tend to offset destruction of guns. Private sales are mostly of guns which came through the system at one time or another. They do not increase or decrease the number of guns in the private stock. As a means of determining how many guns are in the private stock of the United States population, NICS is a good estimate for month to month comparisons. For long term numbers over years and decades, records maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosive (ATF) are available.

To determine the total number of guns added the private stock in the United States, The records of manufacturing and import/export kept by the ATF are a better source, with estimates going back to 1899. The ATF records are not as easily accessed as NICS. The manufacturers numbers are withheld for a year after they are recorded. This is done to protect the proprietary interest manufacturers have in their closely guarded numbers.  Manufacturer numbers reported by the ATF are, at minimum, a year old.  Guns sold to the military, then sold as surplus to the population, are not included in the manufacturer figures.  This is not an important a source of guns in recent years, but millions of guns were sold surplus after WWI and WWII. Large numbers were sold to private citizens as late as the 1960s.

Back to recent numbers: May of 2024 continues the trend of 2024 becoming the fifth highest year for gun sales on record. May continues the trend noted by the National Shooting Sports Federation, of gun sales over a million a month for the last 58 months. There has been a steady decrease in gun sales from the record breaking year of 2020. Prices for many popular models have dropped. Ammunition prices, after correcting for inflation, are historically low. It is likely most people have had their disposable income curtailed by the inflation of the money supply, which is reducing demand for firearms and ammunition. Significant numbers of people who value guns and ammunition as a high priority, may have already purchased the guns and ammunition they desire, thus reducing demand. In spite of drops over the last five years, sales continue at the level brought about by the election of Barack Obama in 2008.

The best estimate of the total number of guns in the United States, using the method pioneered by Newton and Zimring in 1972, expanded by Professor Gary Kleck in 1987, and currently used by the Small Arms Survey, is over 500 million guns. The additional guns from May sales bring the current calculation to 508 million privately owned guns in the United States.

©2024 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

Gun Watch



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