FBI Firearm Background Checks Down Sharply From a 2016 Pace

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The pace of FBI firearm background checks so far this year is down drastically, by about 9%, from 2016.

Through June 30, the FBI has performed 1.2 million fewer firearm background checks than in the same period in 2016, putting this year on pace for the biggest annual decline in checks since the bureau started collecting the data in 1998, according to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Background checks totaled 12.5 million through June 30 from the first six months of 2016, and were well off the pace of 27.5 million for all of 2016, according to NICS statistics. On the state level, background checks declined by as much as 50% year to date. However, they increased in five states by 16% or more.

Click here to see the per capita 2017 gun background checks by state.
Click here to see our detailed analysis.

Many gun industry analysts believe background checks serve as a proxy for the strength of gun sales.

Some industry observers believe there was a surge in gun sales in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election out of fear that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would advocate tougher gun laws.

Kentucky, a state with a population of 4.4 million, is the state with the most background checks — 2.2 million so far this year, according to NICS data. That comes to more than one for every two residents.

Kentucky requires monthly background checks on concealed carry holders. Kentucky firearm vendors must do an NICS background check each time they sell a firearm, unless the buyer has a Kentucky concealed carry permit.
Illinois had the second-highest number of background checks with about 813,000 and California was next with about 799,000. However, when adjusted for population, California has relatively few checks. Minnesota ranked second highest for per capita backgrounds checks.

A study reported in the journal Injury Prevention last year estimated that 300 million Americans owned guns in 2013. According to the data, the highest concentration of these was in the Plains states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, along with Arkansas and West Virginia.