Gun Sales Dip in January as Trump Takes Office

FBI ran half a million fewer checks than same time last year

A gun store customer examines a handgun / AP
February 4, 2017

The number of gun-related background checks performed by the FBI in January were down significantly from the record number from last January.

The FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, processed 2,043,184 gun-related checks through January 2017, records released on Friday show. That's more than 500,000 fewer checks than the record set the year before. It comes on the heels of a streak that saw 18-straight months of new monthly records, and two new yearly records as well.

January's total still saw the third most checks for any January going back to 1998 despite its drop off from record-setting pace.

NICS checks are widely considered the most accurate measure of how many guns were sold in a given month because nearly all sales conducted through licensed dealers require a check. However, it is not a one-to-one representation for a number of reasons. The fact that most states don't require a NICS check on sales between non-dealers and that more than one firearm can be purchased with a single check are some of the factors that lower the measures accuracy.

"These statistics represent the number of firearm background checks initiated through the NICS," the FBI noted in its report. "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."

Gun rights activists long attributed the high level of gun sales in recent years to former president Obama's efforts to institute new gun control measures. They also pointed to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's gun control positions, which her own campaign labeled the most "forceful" in modern history, as a catalyst. With Republican Donald Trump, who activists view as gun-friendly, in the White House they said most gun owners are no longer motivated to buy at such a high rate.

"No Obama, no Clinton, no gun prohibition, no problem," Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation said. "No rush to buy a gun before your rights are infringed. Of course gun sales are down."

Published under: Guns