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Gun background checks on the rise in May, but not because of sales

Federal background checks hit a new high in May, but gun sales weren’t to credit.

The FBI processed just under 2 million applications through the National Instant Criminal Background System last month, the busiest May ever recorded over the last two decades.  Estimated gun sales — the sum total of transfers in the NICS’s handgun, long gun, multiple and other categories — declined 9 percent, totaling just 841,583 and marking the slowest month recorded since June 2015.

A main culprit behind the boosted data is the NICS’s permit re-check category — a section dedicated to periodic rechecks for maintaining gun licenses required in some states. Applications have more than doubled in that category alone, continuing a six-month trend that first appeared in January.

NICS checks serve as a proxy measure for gun sales, albeit an imperfect one. Applications for concealed carry permits, the periodic rechecks and a slew of smaller categories for pawns, redemptions, rentals and other rare situations undercut the total amount of checks processed in one month. Guns.com removes these categories from the total figure to more accurately assess actual transfers, though it’s still an estimate.

Dealers processed more than 488,000 applications for handguns and just under 300,000 applications for long guns in May. The numbers reflect a return to historic seasonal norms as gun sales slow in the spring and summer before picking up with the fall hunting season.

Share prices for major gun makers — including Smith & Wesson, Vista Outdoor and Sturm, Ruger and Company — declined less than 2 percent Monday. Monthly NICS data typically provokes a response on Wall Street, however, its unclear if the latest numbers impacted stock prices any.

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