Mr. Stebbins has written a number of articles involving guns, crime, and statistics. The numbers he cites are usually correct. They are from sources such as the FBI Uniform Crime Reports.
Unfortunately, it is easy to make errors if you do not understand how the numbers are generated. It appears to be the reason for the laughable numbers in Samuel’s most recent article claiming “Gun Sales are Collapsing in Illinois.”
In Illinois, gun sales are falling even faster than they are nationwide. There were a total of 2,064,400 FBI firearm background checks in the state in the first half of 2022 compared to 6,050,704 in the first six months of 2021 — a 65.9% reduction and the largest decline among states.
Gun Sales are NOT Collapsing in Illinois
The problem with the above statement is background checks in Illinois are only partially connected to gun sales.
I tried to contact Samuel so I could explain the error to him and offer my services if he needs some professional firearms expertise in the future. Unfortunately, a few searches did not turn up an email or a phone number to contact him.
Samuel sights the National Instant background Check System check number, in the article, as a proxy for gun sales trends. There are problems with this.
The FBI carefully notes, when publishing the NIC figures:
“These statistics represent the background checks initiated through the NICS. They do not represent the number of firearms sold.”
In most states, the ratio between gun sales and NICS numbers varies between about .5 and .7 gun sales for each NICS check.
Illinois is a special case, as is Kentucky. Both of those states use NICS checks prodigiously for purposes other than gun sales.
Both states run NICS checks over and over and over, month to month to month. The process is mostly automated and costs them very little.
- In 2019, in Illinois, there were over 4.95 million NICS checks and about 395 thousand firearms sales, or a ratio of about .08 firearms sold per NICS check.
- In 2020, in Illinois, there were about 8.47 million NICS checks and about 534 thousand firearms sold, for a ratio of about .063 firearms sold per NICS check.
Looking at the first six months of 2021 and 2022, the gun sales in Illinois dropped from about 274 thousand in the first six months of 2021 to 215 thousand in the first six months of 2022, a 22% reduction.
In January of 2022, Illinois revised its procedures for running NICS Checks on the Firearms Owners Identification (FOID) card. NICS does not show any permit rechecks for Illinois in 2022.
The number of NICS Checks for permits and permit rechecks for the first six months of 2021 was about 5.79 million. For the first six months of 2022, it was 1.85 million, an enormous drop.
The drop occurred because of the change in Illinois firearms law.
The change in permit and permit rechecks explains 98% of the drop in NICS checks from the first six months of 2021 to the first six months of 2022 in Illinois.
Instead of a “collapse” in gun sales, the drop in gun sales for Illinois was in the middle of what most states experienced, at about 22%.
It is an easy mistake to make if you do not understand how the NICS numbers are generated.
Samuel, if you have questions, you can reach me at [email protected]
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.