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“Trump Slump” Proved False by Strong Background Check Numbers

Friday, March 10, 2017

“Trump Slump” Proved False by Strong Background Check Numbers

Rumors of the “Trump Slump” in gun sales have been exaggerated. Recent reports point to three consecutive months of declining NICS background checks (a proxy for gun sales, though not all background checks are connected to a purchase and a single purchase may include multiple firearms) as evidence that President Trump’s election marks the end in a period that saw background checks monthly records broken regularly.

After eight years of an administration led by the “greatest gun salesman in history,” the shift away from an anti-gun agenda has likely eased the drive to buy guns, right?

Not necessarily. 

First, a record-setting number of background checks were completed on Black Friday 2016 – after Trump won the election. 

Perhaps more importantly, February 2017 NICS data contradicts the “Trump Slump” claims.


Examining the number of background checks completed in just the month of February for the last 18 years reveals that February 2017 was, in fact, the 3rd busiest February ever. Yes, the number of background checks in February 2017 is lower than it was in February 2016 – which happened to be the fourth busiest month of all time for NICS background checks.

Comparing current data to the record high points doesn’t prove that sales have plummeted; it does indicate that the number of background checks performed – and so the number of permit applications and/or firearms purchases – is still at near-record levels. February 2017, one of the months cited as proof of the “Trump Slump” was actually one of the 15 busiest months ever for background checks. 

December 2016 – after Trump and his party won the White House and Congress – was the 3rd busiest month ever. The “Trump Slump” allegation also points to a 17% drop in the number of checks performed in December 2016 from those performed in December 2015.

The narrative doesn’t mention that December 2015 featured the most background checks processed in a single month. Ever. 

While “Trump Slump” is a convenient phrase for a headline, it simply does not apply to background checks or gun sales.  

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.