The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) checks for February 2020 have broken all the previous records for the month, with 2,776,380 checks. This signifies very little, because more than half of the NICS checks are for carry permits and carry permit rechecks. That leaves us with the question of how to calculate the numbers of firearm sales. Fortunately, it is not that hard.
Illinois and Kentucky perform hundreds of thousands of permit rechecks every month, skewing the system, which renders the total number useless for estimating gun sales. Instead of total NICS checks, we now calculate a much closer approximation of total gun sales, consisting of NICS checks done for handguns + checks for long guns + checks for other guns + 2.5 x checks done for multiple sales on the 4473 form.
Handguns + long guns + others + 2.5xmulti = 1,244,177 firearm sales recorded in NICS in February of 2020.
In February 2019, the numbers were:
- Handguns (601,381)
- Long guns (355,744)
- Other (43,426)
- Multiple x 2.5 (59,705)
Therefore, we can conclude that total gun sales equaled 1,060,255. February 2020 sales were up 17% from last year. February 2020 sales are slightly higher than the number in 2018 (1,228,888).
The February 2020 numbers are less than 14% below the all-time record set in February of 2016, of 1,413,828, which was extraordinarily high for February, one of the top ever months in NICS history. In February of 2016, the numbers were:
- Handguns (848,213)
- Long Guns (468,229)
- Other (25,533)
- 5 x Multiple (71,853)
It is not difficult to find several factors for the high levels of guns sales in February 2020. The economy is booming (pun intended). High levels of advanced manufacturing, with a high level of competition, has pushed gun prices to historically low levels in constant dollars, while maintaining high levels of functional, if not aesthetic, quality. It has never been cheaper, in terms of hours worked, to acquire such high levels of function for such little work.
People can purchase a new AR15 clone for about the same price as they could purchase a surplus M1 carbine—in constant dollars—after WWII, in 1965.
The price then, by Hunters Lodge, in the April issue of the American Rifleman, was $59.95 or $79.95 for “very good” condition. The rifle included two 15-round magazines, with additional magazines of $1 each.
$1 in 1965 is $8.19 in 2020, after adjusting for inflation. A very good carbine, surplus, in 1965 sold for the constant dollar equivalent of $655 today.
There are many AR-15 clones available for far less than that, new, and with a warranty. They are more powerful, more accurate, just as reliable, and easier to mount optics on and customize. There are also many more aftermarket accessories available.
Low prices, a hot economy, and severe political threats by the Democrat candidates for President, and Democrat legislatures in Virginia, Washington State, California, Maryland, and New York, have created a perfect cauldron of ingredients to combine into strong firearm sales.
The only thing holding down sales is the Donald Trump Presidency and his Supreme Court appointment of originalist and textualist judges. People are waiting to see the outcome of the NYSR/PA v. NYC decision—due this spring—before they panic.
That decision will give a measure of the sense of the Supreme Court on restoring Second Amendment rights and removing the ever increasing infringements tolerated by the appeals courts in some states. President Trump is making great noises about protecting the Second Amendment, but the bump stock regulation has many Second Amendment supporters nervous. After all. we can forecast, with a great deal of certainty, that legislation to address the many infringements which have been baked into Federal regulations over the last 85 years, will not be passed with the Democrats in charge of the House.
Have you contributed to the number of firearms sales numbers of the past couple of months? Which gun or guns did you recently buy? Share your answers in the comment section.
©2020 by Dean Weingarten
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