INDICATOR OF STRONG GUN SALES . . . Data released by the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) reveal a very active year so far for background checks leading to the sale of firearms. From January through June, NICS reported 5,221,633 background checks, a 19 percent increase from 4,384,156 in the same period in 2006. May and June showed the largest increase year over year, with 28 percent and 29 percent increases respectively. The increase coincides with an uptick in excise taxes reported by firearms and ammunition manufacturers, another key economic indicator for the firearms industry.