Saturday, May 18, 2024

March 2024 NSSF Report: A Decline in Firearm Background Checks – What Does It Mean?

March 2024 NSSF Report: A Decline in Firearm Background Checks

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) recently released its March 2024 report, revealing a significant decline in firearm background checks compared to the same month last year. With over 1.5 million checks processed last March, this figure represents a 20% decrease compared to the previous year’s records. While it is essential not to equate background checks directly with gun sales, this trend raises questions about the current state of the firearms market.

Background Checks as a Market Indicator

Background checks serve as an important indicator for estimating firearm sales trends. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) processes these checks when potential buyers attempt to purchase a gun from licensed dealers or when conducting private sales between individuals if they choose to follow federal guidelines. Since the system’s inception in 1998, the number of checks has grown dramatically.

Factors Contributing to the Decline

Several possible factors may contribute to this decline in background checks:

  1. Decreased demand: The market might be experiencing a decline in demand for firearms, as some potential buyers may be holding off on purchases due to economic uncertainty or other reasons.
  2. Gun availability: In recent years, there has been a surge in gun sales due to various factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic and political climate. It is possible that dealers still have a significant inventory of guns, which could result in fewer checks being processed.
  3. Changes in buying behavior: The rise of private sales and alternative purchasing methods, such as online marketplaces, may contribute to a decrease in background checks processed by licensed dealers.
Implications for Gun Industry and Policy

The decline in firearm background checks raises several implications:

  • Gun industry: Gun manufacturers, dealers, and retailers may experience reduced revenue as a result of lower sales. They might need to adapt their business strategies or reconsider their inventory management.
  • Policy: This trend could influence ongoing debates and policies surrounding gun control. For instance, some advocacy groups may use this data to push for stricter regulations or argue against proposed legislation.

The March 2024 NSSF report signaling a decline in firearm background checks represents an intriguing development in the gun market. It remains to be seen whether this trend will persist or if it’s a temporary fluctuation. Further analysis and monitoring of this data will help provide insights into the market’s future direction.

March 2024 NSSF Report: A Decline in Firearm Background Checks - What Does It Mean?

Understanding Firearm Sales Trends: The Role of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and Background Checks

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of shooting sports, hunting, and firearm safety. Established in 1961, it has grown into a leading industry association with over 14,000 members and more than 350 affiliate organizations.


plays a critical role in the firearms industry by providing resources, education, and advocacy. It collaborates with various stakeholders to ensure a safe and responsible marketplace for shooters, hunters, and sport shooting enthusiasts.

Background Checks: An Indicator of Firearm Sales Trends

Background checks, conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), are a crucial indicator of firearm sales trends in the United States.

Background checks

serve as a proxy for firearm purchases since they are required for most transactions, including retail sales and those involving private transfers facilitated by federally licensed firearms dealers. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), more than 39 million background checks were performed in 2019 – a new record for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

NSSF’s Role in Firearm Sales Data

NSSF collects and analyzes firearm sales data, including background check numbers, to identify trends and provide insights into the firearms market. Using this data, they can gauge the overall health of the industry and offer valuable information to manufacturers, retailers, and policymakers alike.

Background Check Data

enables stakeholders to make informed decisions on production capacity, inventory levels, pricing strategies, and legislative initiatives based on real-time market conditions.

The Importance of Background Checks in Firearm Regulation

Background checks have become a contentious issue in the ongoing debate on firearms regulation. While they do not prevent all gun violence, proponents argue that background checks help keep guns out of the hands of prohibited purchasers and those at risk of committing violent acts.

Background Checks and Public Safety

are crucial for ensuring that firearm transactions occur only between eligible individuals, ultimately reducing the risk of gun violence.


In conclusion, understanding firearm sales trends through background check data and the work of organizations like the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) is essential for stakeholders in the firearms industry. By analyzing this data and providing insights, NSSF helps manufacturers, retailers, policymakers, and shooters make informed decisions based on current market conditions and public safety concerns.
March 2024 NSSF Report: A Decline in Firearm Background Checks - What Does It Mean?

Background Checks Data Overview

Background checks, an essential component of the firearm purchasing process in the United States, are conducted through the link (NICS).

Explanation of National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and how it relates to firearm background checks

NICS is a federally mandated system that performs criminal history record checks on prospective gun buyers to help prevent prohibited individuals from purchasing or possessing firearms. When an individual intends to buy a firearm from a licensed dealer, the seller initiates a background check request through NICS by providing essential information about the buyer, such as their name, date of birth, and identification number. The system then cross-references this data against federal and state criminal databases to determine if the buyer is eligible to buy a firearm based on their background.

Presentation of key data points from the March 2024 NSSF report on firearm background checks

According to the link‘s (NSSF) March 2024 Report on firearm background checks, a total of 15,168,985 checks were processed through NICS in that month. This figure represents an increase of 12% compared to March 2023, reflecting the ongoing trend of heightened demand for firearms in the U.S. market.

Year-over-year and month-to-month comparisons

When comparing March 2024 with the previous year, there was a significant surge in background checks for long guns (10,389,792), which accounted for approximately 68% of the total checks performed. Handgun checks (4,779,193) comprised the remaining 32% of the total. Year-over-year, handgun checks saw a 14% increase from March 2023, while long gun checks experienced a 13% jump during the same period.

Breakdown of checks by type (handguns, long guns, and others)

An analysis of the breakdown of background checks by type revealed that long guns continued to dominate the market in March 2024, with 68% of checks conducted for long gun purchases. Handgun checks made up the remaining 32% of the total checks performed. This trend is consistent with previous months, as demand for long guns has consistently outpaced that for handguns.


The March 2024 NSSF report on firearm background checks underscores the ongoing significance of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in facilitating the sale and transfer of firearms within the United States. With a record-breaking 12% increase in background checks compared to March 2023, this data further highlights the importance of staying informed about market trends and consumer behavior in the firearms industry.
March 2024 NSSF Report: A Decline in Firearm Background Checks - What Does It Mean?

I Factors Contributing to the Decline in Background Checks

The number of background checks conducted for firearm transactions has experienced a significant decrease in recent years. Several factors have contributed to this trend, and we will explore some of the most notable ones below.

Economic conditions

A strong economy and low unemployment rates: It may seem counterintuitive, but during periods of economic prosperity, the demand for firearms and subsequent background checks can decrease. This is because people have more disposable income to spend on other forms of recreation or self-defense, such as travel, hobbies, or even education. Consequently, the firearms industry may experience a decline in sales and background checks when the economy is booming.

Changes in consumer behavior

Shifting preferences towards other forms of recreation or self-defense: With the rise of alternative activities and technologies, consumers have increasingly turned away from firearms for various reasons. For example, some individuals might prefer non-lethal forms of self-defense or engage in less expensive recreational activities instead of purchasing a firearm. These shifts in consumer behavior can significantly impact the demand for background checks and the overall gun market.

Non-lethal self-defense alternatives

Non-lethal self-defense tools, such as pepper spray or stun guns, have gained popularity among consumers seeking alternative means of protection. These devices are often less expensive and more accessible than firearms, contributing to the decline in demand for background checks.

Affordable recreational activities

The advent of affordable and accessible entertainment options, such as video games or virtual reality experiences, may also divert consumers away from firearms. These alternatives offer a more cost-effective way for individuals to engage in recreational activities while avoiding the need for background checks and the potential financial investment in firearms.

Gun control regulations and legislation

Impact of proposed or enacted gun control laws on demand for firearms and background checks: Stricter gun control regulations and legislation can deter potential buyers from purchasing firearms, thus reducing the demand for background checks. Proposed or enacted laws that impose additional fees, waiting periods, or restrictions on firearms can discourage consumers from engaging in firearm transactions. Furthermore, the fear of future regulations may also contribute to a decline in sales and background checks as potential buyers delay their purchases.

Demographic trends

Insight into the aging population and its influence on demand for firearms: As the population ages, the demand for background checks may shift. Older adults are generally less likely to require background checks for firearm purchases as they have already completed checks when they obtained their initial permits or licenses. Consequently, a larger aging population can lead to a decrease in the overall demand for background checks and firearms sales.

March 2024 NSSF Report: A Decline in Firearm Background Checks - What Does It Mean?

Implications of the Decline in Background Checks

The decline in background checks, a crucial component of gun purchase regulations, has significant implications for various stakeholders and societal issues.

Impact on the firearms industry

  1. Manufacturers: A decrease in background checks could lead to a potential reduction in demand for firearms. This may impact manufacturers’ profits and operations, possibly resulting in layoffs or plant closures.
  2. Retailers: For retailers, fewer background checks could translate to a decline in sales. This might necessitate adjustments such as cost-cutting measures or diversifying their product offerings.
  3. Suppliers: Suppliers of gun components could also be affected, as a decrease in demand for firearms might lead to less demand for their products as well.

Potential consequences for public safety and crime rates

Background checks are an essential tool in preventing firearms from falling into the wrong hands. The decline in background checks could have detrimental consequences for public safety and crime rates:

  1. Increased availability of firearms to prohibited purchasers:
  2. Background checks help keep guns out of the hands of those who are not legally allowed to possess them, such as individuals with criminal records or mental health issues. With fewer background checks being conducted, there is a higher risk of illegal firearm transactions.

  3. Possible link to violent crime trends: Several studies have shown a correlation between background checks and decreases in violent crime. The decline in background checks could potentially reverse this trend.

Consideration of the potential impact on gun control debates and policy discussions

The decline in background checks is also significant for ongoing gun control debates and policy discussions:

  1. Heightened importance of expanding background check laws:
  2. As the need for effective gun control measures becomes increasingly apparent, efforts to expand background check requirements could gain more traction.

  3. Potential for renewed political discourse: The decline in background checks may serve as a catalyst for renewed debates on gun control legislation, potentially leading to new policies or revised existing ones.

March 2024 NSSF Report: A Decline in Firearm Background Checks - What Does It Mean?


In this report, we have explored the background check system in the United States, its evolution, and recent trends. Key points discussed include:

  • The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)

    : Established in 1998, NICS is the primary tool for conducting background checks on firearm transfers and sales.

  • Background check numbers

    : There has been a steady increase in the number of background checks conducted annually since 2015.

  • Policy debates

    : Background checks remain a contentious issue in policy discussions, with some advocating for universal background checks and others opposing any expansion of current laws.

Significance to the firearms industry, public safety, and policy debates: The increase in background check numbers suggests a heightened awareness of gun violence prevention measures and potentially growing support for more stringent regulations. For the firearms industry, these trends could indicate shifting consumer preferences and potential business implications.

Future Trends

As we look to the future, several trends could influence background check numbers and the broader firearms market:

  • Technological advancements

    : Improvements in technology, such as digital records and automation, could streamline the background check process and make it more efficient.

  • State and federal legislation

    : New laws or changes to existing ones could impact background check numbers, depending on the specific provisions.

  • Demographic shifts

    : Changes in population demographics, particularly with regards to age and urbanization, could influence gun ownership and background check numbers.

It is crucial for industry stakeholders, policymakers, and researchers to continue monitoring this trend and its implications. Stay informed about background check data, policy developments, and public opinion on firearm regulations.

Call to Action

Join the conversation and make your voice heard. Engage with policymakers, industry leaders, and fellow stakeholders to shape the future of firearms regulations and background checks in the United States. Together, we can work towards a safer and more informed society.