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Firearm Background Checks Reach Second-Highest July Number On Record

Ezra Schwarzbaum

Firearm background checks reached their second-highest level in July coming in at over 1.8 million.

What Happened 

The previous record for July sales was in 2015, when the FBI conducted nearly 2.2 million checks.

Although the number of background checks conducted does not correlate with the actual number of guns sold — reasons include failures to pass, varying purchase scenarios and state laws — it does provide a rough indication of how interested people are in buying a gun. 

Why It's Important 

The data comes as the nation debates the issue of 3-D printed guns. Defense Distributed, the Texas company known for releasing plans for a single-shot plastic pistol named “The Liberator,” is in a legal battle with several states, cities and gun reform groups over whether the blueprint for the gun should be allowed online.

The Obama administration banned the plans from being posted, but the Trump administration reversed that decision in July. On Tuesday, hours before The Liberator was set to be made available to anyone with a computer and a 3-D printer, a federal judge in Seattle granted a temporary nationwide injunction preventing Defense Distributed from moving forward.

Cody Wilson, the founder of Defense Distributed, argues that posting the gun’s blueprint online is his First Amendment right, and that the government’s challenge to 3D printed guns — which are untraceable and harder to detect in security screenings — violates the second amendment.

The company has announced plans to make larger, more powerful guns available — such as a design for plastic AR-15s, over 1,000 of which have already been downloaded in Pennsylvania, according to CNN. 

Advocates for gun reform have argued that the free distribution of 3-D printed guns will allow potentially dangerous individuals such as mass shooters and terrorists, to easily obtain untraceable weapons without the government ever knowing, even when they would otherwise be barred from purchase.

What’s Next

The lawsuit filed by eight states and the District of Columbia is working its way through the courts. Many are expecting the case to ultimately reach the Supreme Court.

Last year, over 25.2 million firearm background checks were conducted. The number has risen every year since 2002 and is on pace to reach a record high once again.

If fears over 3-D firearms prove true, the number of background checks conducted each year could stagnate or drop as people design and release more advanced 3D gun designs — all while the number of firearms per capita continues to climb.

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