State Firearm Background Checks: NICS Data

A total of nearly 26.2 million firearm background checks were conducted in 2018. That's up slightly from 2017, but still below the record annual high of 27.5 million gun background checks reached in 2016.

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

While background check statistics are commonly used to approximate firearm purchases, they do not represent actual numbers of guns 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 for numbers of background checks requested each month since 2010. 

Last updated: March 2019

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