2015 was a record year for the National Instant Checks System (NICS) and firearm sales. The previous record year was in 2013, another year in which President Obama put considerable effort into passing strict gun control laws . . . and failed. In 2013, there were 21,093,271 background checks completed via NICS, according to the FBI. That amounted to 16,031,210 additional private firearms sold, according to the ATF. The numbers for 2015 NICS checks are now in and the 2013 totals were exceeded . . .
by a full 10 percent. There were 23,141,970 NICS background checks completed in 2015, with eight of the 12 months marking all-time records. As usual, December racked up the greatest number of NICS checks with 3,314,594.
NICS background checks don’t represent a one-to-one correspondence to increases in the private stock of firearms. Some NICS checks are performed for used guns. Some are completed for people obtaining a concealed carry permit, who aren’t necessarily purchasing a gun. Once people obtain a carry permit, most don’t need to go through the NICS system again if they purchase a gun. Also, several guns can be purchased by an individual on one NICS check.
Still, there is a high correlation between NICS checks and gun sales. In 2013, the last record year, one NICS check corresponded to .76 new private firearms. 2014 and 2015 are both very similar to 2013 in the number of NICS checks. The .76 ratio was used to extrapolate the increase in private firearms during those years.
There were about 308 million privately owned firearms in the United States at the start of the Obama presidency. If we omit the millions of firearms that were added during and immediately after the election in 2008, the total number of guns in the US has increased by 88.5 million during the Obama presidency, at the end of 2015. And there’s still an entire year to go in his final term.
President Obama’s town hall on CNN about guns in America has us off to a good start. Based on recent trends, another 16 to 17 million firearms will be added in 2016, increasing the total to about 412 million guns. That’s an increase of 104 million, or about 25 percent during the Obama years, and only slightly more all the privately owned guns in 1968, when the current push for gun control started.
President Obama can be proud; that is an enormous legacy. And given that the useful life of a modern firearm is measured in centuries, increased firearms ownership may be the most lasting legacy of the Obama presidency.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.