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Gun Purchases Continue to Drop

A pair of independent sources estimate gun sales declined more than 12 percent in March—compared to 2018’s figures—nearly identical to the double-digit drop of February. Both findings are based on the volume of requests handled by the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background System (NICS) that, because they include carry permits and other administrative use of the system, provide only a relative barometer of new firearm purchases.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) estimates the year-over-year drop for the month was 12.4 percent [PDF]. Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF) calculations indicate it was slightly worse at 12.6 [PDF].

January is the only month with a reported increase during the first quarter of 2019. NSSF estimates new gun purchases for the year are down 8.5 percent. “Sales for the first quarter of 2019, at about 3.6 million, last were this low in the corresponding quarter of the year 2014,” said SAAF Chief Economist Jurgen Brauer. “Relative to the first quarter of 2018, first quarter 2019 sales declined by about 200,000 units.”

SAAF figures drill deeper into the data, estimating handgun sales for the month were 802,500—a year-over-year decline of 7 percent. Long-gun purchases dropped by 19.5 percent (481,355 sold) and in the organization’s “other likely firearm sales” tabulation the decrease was 18.2 percent.

Even total volume processed through the NICS system declined by 5.4 percent compared to March 2018, according to NSSF. SAAF’s press release explains the percentages aren’t identical because, “The FBI’s raw numbers (for March some 2,604,927) cannot be taken at face value, as very large number of background checks are unrelated to end-user sales. For example, in March the state of Kentucky conducted just over 350,000 so-called permit checks alone whereas end-user checks at firearm retailers likely amounted to about 28,500 checks.”

As gun purchases continue to drop, we can expect to see more of the special deals like we witnessed this spring.

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