FBI Statistics: Record 27.5 million background checks (NICS)

    FBI have released the statistics from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

    Interestingly, the FBI statistics go all the way back to 1998 when they started keeping a record as part of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993.
    During all these years the FBI have processed more than 253 million background checks!

    There’s a lot of data to look at and a lot of interesting conclusions (or at least discussion points) people can draw.


    There’s already been a lot of conclusions drawn in the media that the record sale is due to various politicians and a certain election for a new President, plus the threat of War and Terror and the wish for self defense – but who know for sure?

    First, let’s get this quite important notice quoted before you start crunching the numbers:

    Notice: “These statistics represent the number of firearm background checks initiated through the NICS 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.”


    Considering the the previous record of background checks was 23 million (2015), it’s probably quite safe to say that 2016 also was a record year in terms of gun sales as well.  I somehow have a hard time thinking that Americans do background checks for the fun of it, and another 4 million more did these checks in 2016.
    (My understanding is that these numbers do not include a lot of guns sold to or given to friends and within the family.)


    One of my own conclusions – and I may be wrong – from looking at the figures:
    President Obama was first elected in 2008. There were 12.7 million checks (and a record) that year.

    Since then the checks have continued to grow, and the 2008 figure more than doubled to 27,5 million in 2016.

    However, from 2000 to 2008 (the 8 year period before Obama) the figures grew by 1.5 times, not too far off doubling actually. I think this fact is disregarded, there’s been a continuous and accelerating growth with some irregular ups and downs.



    Regardless of who is the President we seem to find a reason to buy another firearm, and the options and variety must be so much greater now than back in 2000. Plus, I’m sure most people are better off and prices may have gone down, making it easier for people to afford more guns.

    The Financial crisis of 2007–2008, can you find any evidence of it in the NICS figures? The figures kept increasing.

    253 million checks in 18 years gives us an average of 14 million checks. Both 2009 and 2010 hit that average.


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    To the FBI numbers:
    NICS Firearm Checks: Month/Year
    Statistics representing the number of firearms background checks initiated through the NICS from November 1998 to December 2016.





    More numbers below. Let us know if you find something interesting in the comments section below.

    NICS Firearm Background Checks – Year by State/Type.

    Here you can check all the way from 1998 up to the end of 2016.


    NICS Firearm Checks: Top 10 Highest Days/Weeks
    Here you can check the statistics representing the highest day and week numbers of firearms background checks initiated through the NICS from November 1998 to December 2016.


    Eric B

    Ex-Arctic Ranger. Competitive practical shooter and hunter with a European focus. Always ready to increase my collection of modern semi-automatics, optics and sound suppressors. TCCC Certified medic.