Though not a perfect indicator of gun sales for various reasons, the number of background checks run through NICS gives a general idea of the demand for firearms.
Businesses that regularly sell firearms are required to process checks through the system, for both handguns and long guns.
While License to Carry (LTC) holders in the state need to be cleared through NICS during the application process for their permit, they can present their license when purchasing a gun instead of another background check.
The data from the FBI shows that background checks in Texas and across the country shot through the roof in March as the coronavirus pandemic spread to America and local governments issued lockdown orders.
Texas’ background check numbers jumped from 143,000 in February to 274,000 in March — a 194 percent increase from March 2019.
Amidst the riots across America’s major cities, the number of NICS checks picked back up in June to 227,000 — lower than the March total, but still a 223 percent increase from June 2019.
Similarly, the total number of checks in Texas dipped slightly to 214,000 in July, but represent an increase of 235 percent from July 2019.
A detailed breakdown of the types of NICS checks processed by the FBI illustrate the decline in total checks was driven largely by a decline in checks for handgun purchases — from 122,000 in June to 97,000 in July.
However, the number of checks conducted for permits — in the State of Texas, that would be for LTC applications — increased from 41,000 in June to 58,000 in July, setting a new record.
Until last month, the record number of background checks for permits in Texas was 57,000 in February 2016.
2016 currently holds a record for the highest number of background checks conducted in Texas in a year, suggesting that the presidential election this year could be one major contributing factor — in addition to the pandemic and riots — for the rise in gun sales.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.