State Firearm Background Checks: NICS Data

Federal firearm background checks are conducted using the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to ensure transactions do not violate federal or state laws.

In 2014, total federal firearm background checks dipped slightly after climbing for years, marking the first annual decline since 2002. All but eight states recorded year-over-year declines.

Background check statistics, however, do not represent actual numbers of firearms sold. Federal law does not require checks for private sales between individuals, and multiple guns are often purchased after a single background check, for example.

Select a state below for numbers of background checks requested each month since 2010. 

Data Notes

  • Numbers of firearm background checks do not represent numbers of firearms sold. Federal background checks are not required, for example, in private transactions, and multiple firearms may be purchased after a single background check.
  • Some Kentucky permit holders are subject to monthly background checks.
  • North Carolina conducted checks for a large group of existing permit holders in March 2014.
  • In California, a technical issue caused NICS queries to be submitted multiple times in March 2015.
  • Read further NICS information from the FBI

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