NICS Checks Remain High in September, More Carry Permits, Lower Gun Sales

Second Amendment

NICS Checks Remain High in September, More Carry Permits, Lower Gun Sales

Arizona -( – The total number of National Instant background Checks, (NICS) remain at historically high levels for September of 2018.

September, 2018 had 1,956,681 NICS checks. September, 2017 had 1,967,104 NICS checks, and September, 2016, the all time record, had 1,992,219 NICS checks. There is less than a two percent difference in the total NICS checks numbers for the last three Septembers.

Retailers are reporting that sales of firearms have fallen. How are the high NICS numbers and lower firearm sales reconciled?

The answer can be found by digging deeply into the FBI reports of NICS numbers by state and type.

While total NICS numbers remain high, the number of NICS numbers used for gun permits and for permit re-checks has become a larger percentage of the total.

Permit checks and re-checks were 41 percent of all NICS in September of 2016. (Rechecks are displayed in the FBI figures starting in June of 2016)

  • Permit and permit re-checks are 43 percent of all NICS in September of 2017.
  • Permit and permit re-checks are 50 percent of all NICS in September of 2018.

The numbers show a dramatic increase in permit and permit re-checks as a percentage of the total NICS checks done.

Digging into state data, just two states, Illinois and Kentucky, account for 60% of all permit and permit re-checks for September of 2018. Kentucky checks all carry permits for the state every month, resulting in September permit checks of 393,160. Illinois lists 189,106 permit re-checks for the same month.

When  the permit and permit re-checks are subtracted from the September numbers for 2016, 2017, and 2018, we are left with 1,165,584 non-permit related NICS in 2016, 1,128,919 in 2017, and 980,819 in 2018.

The numbers of non-permit related NICS checks show a 16% drop NICS checks instead of 2%.

The mystery is solved. Increasing checks for permits and re-checks, especially in Illinois, are responsible for the high level of overall checks while sales are dropping.

October sales are historically a little higher than September, while November and December are historically the highest months of the year.

Countering that trend is a failing Mueller investigation, an invigorated Trump administration, and the installation of Judge Kavanaugh as Justice Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.  Judge Kavanaugh wrote a famous dissent on the D.C. Circuit in defense of Second Amendment rights.  From

Kavanaugh reasoned that handguns, which are mostly semi-automatic, are protected by the Second Amendment, and he saw no real difference, from a constitutional perspective, between handguns and semi-automatic rifles. Semi-automatic rifles, he observed, “have not traditionally been banned” and “remain in common use today”; indeed, he noted, handguns are more often used in violent crimes than semi-automatic rifles. The registration requirements, he continued, are unconstitutional because gun owners have traditionally not been required to register all guns that they own legally – “as distinct,” Kavanaugh pointed out, “from licensing of gun owners or mandatory recordkeeping by gun sellers.”

Those political events tend to make potential gun buyers more confident the Trump administration and the Supreme Court will protect Second Amendment rights in the future.

This could dampen incentives to purchase firearms, as more restrictive gun legislation seems unlikely during a Trump administration.

Dean Weingarten
Dean Weingarten

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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