Gun Sales Fell Again in April

(Bloomberg) -- After a strong showing in March, gun sales were down last month.  

While there is no exact data on firearms purchases in the U.S., the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System is used as a barometer for gun sales. Adjusted for permit checks, such as concealed-carry applications, April checks were down 4.1 percent from the previous year, totaling 1,065,927.

Handgun checks fell 9.6 percent, while long-gun checks were nearly flat with a 0.1 percent decline, according to analysis from KeyBanc Capital Markets. The unadjusted total, including permits, was 2,186,119, an increase from 2,037,180 in April 2017. 

In March, background checks soared 10.8 percent, compared to the previous year, with long-gun checks rising 17.3 percent. The increase came after a mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school sparked nationwide protests and calls for gun control. March’s increase led analysts to believe fear-based gun buying had returned, after the industry fell into a bit of a slump following the 2016 presidential election. 

James Hardiman, an analyst at Wedbush, attributed the rise in long-gun sales to “heightened talk of gun regulation” following Parkland, as well as firearms laws passed on the state level. 

Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting chief economist Jurgen Brauer was not impressed by the April numbers: “The sum total of likely firearms sales for the first four months of 2018 is slightly below sales for the same period last year suggesting continued softness in the U.S. firearms market,” he said in a statement. 

Shares of publicly traded firearms companies did not experience any major swings following the release of the FBI data. American Outdoor Brands Co. was down about 1 percent, while Vista Outdoor Inc. was down just more than 1 percent. 

To contact the author of this story: Polly Mosendz in New York at pmosendz@bloomberg.net.

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