Firearms-related background checks remained near all-time highs in June despite falling below 2016's record pace, FBI documents released on Thursday show.
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) had 1,901,768 requests ran through it during June. That's about 230,000 fewer than in June 2016 but higher than any other June since the NICS program began in 1998. It continues 2017's trend of background check numbers being either the highest or second highest on record.
The previous month, May, set an all-time record with 1,942,677 NICS checks. June's numbers were also down from May as the gun industry enters the summer slow season where sales are traditionally lower than in other months.
The number of NICS checks in a month are a good barometer of how many gun sales have taken place in that month because NICS checks are required on nearly all sales made through licensed gun dealers. The number of NICS checks are not a one-to-one representation of gun sales for a variety of reasons, however. Most states do not require a NICS check for sales between private citizens on the secondary market, some states accept gun carry permits in place of a NICS check for gun purchases, and more than one gun can be sold under a single NICS check.
"These statistics represent the number of firearm background checks initiated through the NICS," the FBI said in its report on the number of NICS checks in June. "They do not represent the number of firearms sold. Based on varying state laws and purchase scenarios, a one-to-one correlation cannot be made between a firearm background check and a firearm sale."
Additionally, most states require a NICS check in order to obtain a gun-carry permit. A National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) analysis of the NICS number, which removed the permit checks, found a smaller drop in checks associated directly with gun sales than the raw numbers show.
"The June 2017 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 1,016,213 is a decrease of 10.9 percent compared to the June 2016 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,140,088," a press release from the group said. "For comparison, the unadjusted June 2017 FBI NICS figure 1,888,266 reflects an 11.1 percent decrease from the unadjusted FBI NICS figure of 2,123,334 in June 2016."
The group said the numbers are encouraging for the gun industry.
"We are encouraged by the fact that NSSF-adjusted NICS for Q1 of 2017 are only off a few percentage points from Q1 of 2016, which was a record year," Larry Keane, NSSF Vice President, told the Washington Free Beacon. "The adjusted NICS figures for June are well ahead of June 2015, and not unexpectedly lower than June of 2016. It confirms what we have been saying since the election in November of last year. We are coming off the peaks of 2016, but the valley floor is much higher. This is because there is organic growth of 4-6 percent a year in the now stabilized market."