In a welcome surprise for the arms industry, 2017 is on a pace to easily be the second biggest for gun sales ever, and could beat last year's record.

New gun background check data released Thursday by the FBI revealed that 12,601,102 checks have already taken place this year. Background checks are seen as a good gauge of gun sales, though not all sales have to go through the system and some sales are rejected.

In June, the FBI conducted 1,901,768. That is 229,717 less than in June of 2016. In May, there were more background checks conducted than in May 2016. Last year a record 27,538,673 checks were conducted. This year is likely to surpass 25 million, but current cut-rate deals could spike sales, according to industry representatives.

Due to the contentious election and spurts of terrorism and crime, 2016 was the biggest year ever for gun sales and FBI background checks.

Sales this year were expected to plummet because pro-gun Donald Trump beat anti-gun Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But the drop hasn't occurred. Gun sellers credit the rise in concealed carry permits, and concerns about terrorism as the driving forces.

A new Pew Research Center survey also found that the nation, while divided on guns, has a long and deep relationship with guns. What's more, personal protection — not hunting — was the top reason people have guns.

The survey also found that nearly three quarters of the country has fired a gun, prompting the industry representative, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, to encourage members to take someone shooting.

"Here's our top takeaway: Get involved. Take someone shooting. Make owning a gun great again," said the group.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at