Data released by the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) reported 1,225,980 checks in April 2009. This figure is a 30.3 percent increase from the 940,961 reported in April 2008.
FBI background checks are required under federal law for all individuals purchasing either new or used firearms from federally licensed retailers. The checks serve as a gauge of actual sales but do not reflect the actual number of firearms sold, since, following a background check, a customer may decide not to purchase a firearm or may purchase more than one firearm.
The April increase follows a 29.2 percent gain in March and rises of 23 percent in February, 28 percent in January, 24 percent in December and 42 percent in November when a record 1,529,635 background checks were performed.
The increase in NICS checks coincides with a rise in excise taxes reported by firearms manufacturers, another indicator of firearm sales.