Firearm Background Checks Decline

Although not a widely-utilized indicator, we like to look at the number of firearm background checks conducted by the NICS every month to gauge geopolitical uncertainty and volatility within the US. In uncertain times, firearm background checks tend to increase, as individuals increasingly acquire the means to protect themselves in a worst-case scenario. On the contrary, when times are ‘good’, background checks tend to decline. An additional factor that impacts background checks is the outlook on firearms legislation. When the populous fears that they may not be able to purchase certain firearms in the future, they will step up purchases in the short term to ‘stock up’. At the end of June, the Supreme Court ruled against the state of New York in regards to carry laws, which could help to expand demand for firearms, at least in that part of the country. Click here to learn more about Bespoke’s premium stock market research service.

In the month of July, firearm background checks declined by 6.5% sequentially and by 16.6% year over year continuing a recent trend of sharp declines.  While checks are down, it followed a period of surging demand in 2020 as geopolitical unrest ran rampant throughout the US (BLM protests, claims of election fraud, COVID lockdowns, etc.). Nonetheless, background checks have declined by 33.9% on a two-year stack.

Gun Background Checks

However, background checks are still in a longer-term uptrend. At 2.4 million, July’s background checks rank in the 16.2% of all months since NICS began reporting this data in 1998, and outside of late 2019 and into early 2021, there were only a few months that the number of checks was higher.  Still, they are down 48.8% from the all-time high in March 2021. This may be because demand was pulled forward, but it could also be due to a more normalized domestic situation.

Gun Rights Data

Through July, the 22.4% YTD decline in background checks in July versus December has actually been smaller than average.  Background checks in July are practically always lower than in December, and the only year where that wasn’t the case was in 2020 when the country was gripped by riots in cities nationwide.  Going back to 2000, background checks in July were typically more than a third (-33.8%) lower than in December. Click here to learn more about Bespoke’s premium stock market research service.

There are two publicly traded stocks directly exposed to these trends: Sturm Ruger (RGR) and Smith & Wesson (SWBI). The monthly performance of these two stocks tends to be highly correlated to trailing twelve-month NCIS background checks, as this is a clear read into the demand picture for these two companies. Just like background checks in general, both stocks are still in sustained downtrends. Click here to learn more about Bespoke’s premium stock market research service.

Gun Stocks

Firearm Background Checks

We track the number of NICS firearm background checks on a regular basis as it often provides interesting insights on the mood of Americans or the direction of political winds regarding gun control legislation.  In times of higher volatility, uncertainty, or concerns that lawmakers in Washington will enact stricter legislation for firearms, purchases tend to rise. On the other hand, in periods of stability, background checks tend to fall. Ever since June of last year, background checks have been declining on a y/y basis, but the y/y decline moderated in June. Although still down 15.8% compared to last year, purchases moved higher sequentially for the first time in three months. Click here to learn more about Bespoke’s premium stock market research service.

Firearm Background Checks

Although checks moved higher month over month, they are likely to rise even further in July due to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling against the state of New York. This case expands the right to carry, and will likely increase firearm purchases in some of the most restrictive cities, such as New York and Los Angeles. In June, background checks rose by over 230K to reach 2.6 million. Although checks are in a near-term down-trend following the COVID spike, the longer-term uptrend is still very much intact.

Gun background checks

On a YTD basis, background checks have declined at the fastest rate on record. This is largely due to elevated comps, as 2021 saw background checks near record levels due to a growing political divide, COVID lockdowns, and fears over legislation with Democrats in full control of Washington D.C.

Gun Ownership in America

Although background checks moved higher month over month, Sturm Ruger (RGR) and Smith and Wesson (SWBI) hit 52-week lows in June. All-in-all, RGR traded 6.3% lower in June, and SWBI declined 15.2%. The stocks have been weighed down by slowing sales over the last couple of quarters, increased legal risk associated with firearm manufacturer liability, and the pull of the overall market tide. Both these stocks are still in sustained downtrends, and even after initially moving higher following the Supreme Court decision, both stocks have essentially come full circle.  Click here to learn more about Bespoke’s premium stock market research service.

RGR stock SWBI stock