June 30, 2015

Firearm Background Checks Show a Slight Decrease In 2014

National firearm background checks dipped slightly in 2014 after year-over-year increases for over a decade, according to a recent Governing article that reviewed National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) data.  Mike Maciag, the magazine’s data editor, speculated that  the  “lower tallies last year likely resulted from an unusually high total in 2013, particularly in the months following the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.,” when lawmakers debated new firearm legislation.
But the trend may be reversing. A look at recent 2015 data suggests that “about half of the states are on pace to exceed 2014 totals,” with Indiana experiencing a “particularly steep increase in firearm checks over the past few months,” the article observed.

Historical data suggests that background checks often spike before a new law imposing additional requirements takes effect. They also tend to spike during a holiday season or after a tragic incident.  For example, “the FBI reported a record of 2.8 million checks in December 2012, the month the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting took place,” the article noted.

Although NICS background check data is used to predict sales, it does not reflect actual sales. For example, a person purchasing many firearms at the same time may need only one background check. Furthermore, states occasionally re-run checks for various reasons. 
Survey research also raises questions about the connection between background checks and firearm ownership. Although firearm background checks have steadily increased, the share of households that report owning guns has dropped from nearly half in the 1970s and early 80s to one-third today, according to the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

For additional information, click here to read the full article.