FBI Reports that Firearm Background Checks Continue to Set New Highs

Jul. 12, 2019
Bob Adelmann

When the National Instant Criminal Background Check System – NICS  was inflicted on the American people as part of the Brady Bill passed under President Clinton in 1993, it was sold as a means to reduce gun violence by keeping firearms out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them.

But now it turns out that another force  a profound cultural change  has been quietly at work accomplishing what the NICS demonstrably didn't: the increasing freedom being enjoyed by law-abiding citizens "to keep and bear arms."

Whenever the FBI updates its monthly report on NICS firearm background checks (BGCs) it notes that the numbers "do not represent the number of firearms sold." That's because the BGCs are performed on people attempting to purchase a firearm and not on the number he or she might be buying at that moment in time.

So, a fair question to ask, in light of the record-setting two million background checks every month for the first six months of 2019, is: what is driving those numbers to new highs?

There have been more than two million BGCs every month for the last nine months straight, a record going back to the start of the NICS as part of the Brady Bill. The same question applies: what's going on to drive BGCs to more than two million a month?

There is some political influence, of course. BGCs jumped in November of 2008 when it became clear that Barack Obama was going to be president. They jumped again in November 2012 when he won reelection. He has been tagged as "America's No. 1 Gun Salesman" as citizens rushed to purchase firearms before new restrictions on their right to do so were enacted. BGCs also jumped just prior to the November 2016 election when nearly every poll showed anti-gun Hillary Clinton winning the presidential election.

Outside events also impacted BGCs. For instance, during the month of December 2015 the San Bernardino attack by two Muslims (that left 14 people dead and another 22 seriously injured  the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting) raised concerns about more restrictions on gun owners coming as a result. That month BGCs jumped to 3.3 million.

Part of the answer must be the number of firearm owners who are seeking concealed carry permits, known as CCW or "concealed carry weapons" permits. As of 2018 there have been more than 17 million permits issued in the U.S.

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And that counts only those who must follow state requirements for background checks as part of the permitting process. An increasing number of states are repealing or setting aside the requirement for concealed carry permits in order for citizens to carry firearms in public.

Irrefutable is the conclusion that John Lott, founder and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author of "More Guns, Less Crime," arrived at in 1998. He has updated his work in subsequent issuances of his book, which confirmed his conclusions. Those conclusions have been confirmed and validated elsewhere.

Using FBI numbers, the violent crime rate in the U.S. fell by 49 percent between 1993 and 2017. Using data from Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the rate fell by 74 percent during that period. And the impact on property crimes has been equally impressive, falling from 351 property crimes per household (using BJS data) in 1993 to 108 in 2017 (the last full year for which data is available).

In total there have been more than 230 million BGCs initiated since 1998, with just 1.6 million denials, or less than seven-tenths of one percent. This leads one to ask: just what impact on that decline have those BGCs had? Lott answered that question, writing at TheHill.com in 2017: "Research looking at U.S. data has consistently found no evidence that any type of background checks reduce rates of violent crime." Lott expanded on his theme a few months later: BGC denials might actually result in increased violent crime. In his opinion piece published by the New York Times, Lott criticized the NICS for the thousands of denials based on "false positives"  those with names similar to those legitimately denied. Lott also noted that fees charged applicants in some areas of the country are so high that they keep lower income individuals from applying for their CCW permit, thus exposing them to criminal elements.

The irony is somehow satisfying: what government promised to do it failed to do. Instead private individuals increasingly exercising their rights are accomplishing it.


An Ivy League graduate and former investment advisor, Bob is a regular contributor to The New American primarily on economics and politics. He can be reached at bobadelmann@msn.com.


Breitbart.com: Gun Background Check Record: 2+ Million Checks Each Month of 2019

FBI.gov: NICS Firearm Checks: Month/Year

MyFox8.com: NICS firearm background checks surpass 2 million every month for first 6 months of 2019

FBI.gov: History of background checks

More history on background checks

The New York Times: Background Checks Are Not the Answer to Gun Violence, by John Lott

TheHill.com: Background checks do not diminish crime rates, but can increase them

Concealed carry in the United States

The San Bernardino, California shooting in 2015

Pew Research: 5 facts about crime in the U.S.

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