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Gun Sales Reach Record 4.7 Million. Here's Every State Ranked.

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U.S. gun sales in March surged 25% to 4,691,738. This makes it among the largest single month since sales figures started to be recorded in 1998.

The increase is part of a trend. Gun sales in the United States rose 40% last year to 39,695,315. That represents the high water mark in annual gun sales since the current record-keeping system went into effect. Increases by state in March varied substantially, as has been the case for years.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation tracks gun sales and publishes a list of how many are handled as part of its National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Each month, the figures are reported by state. Nearly everyone put through this system qualifies as a buyer. People who are excluded usually have criminal records. Of the more than 310 million checks that have been done since 1998, there have only been 1.5 million denials. Therefore, the data is the best proxy for U.S. gun sales available.

Growing civil unrest may have prompted people to buy guns for personal and family protection, many social scientists have posited, although this remains a matter of debate. Another theory is that chaos brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is a major cause. A new UC Davis School of Medicine study about fear of violence reports: “The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated persistent structural, economic, and social inequities in the conditions that contribute to violence and its consequences.”

Who bought these guns? CBS News pointed out that over 5 million people were first-time gun buyers last year. CNN reported a sharp rise in sales to Black Americans and women. “Sales to women are also up 40% through September when compared with the same period last year,” the news network pointed out.

The March increase should not be taken as unusual, nor should the rise in gun sales from 2019 to 2020 be viewed as an anomaly. The number of gun sales has increased most years since 1999. Sales first topped 25 million in 2016, 20 million in 2013, 15 million in 2011 and 10 million in 2006. In 1999, the first full year the FBI kept data, sales totaled 9,138,123.

The state with the most sales in March was Illinois at an extraordinary 1,427,197. That is 30% of national sales for the month. However, the state has slightly less than 4% of the national population. The same pattern holds true for the state that had the second-highest gun sales figure last month. Kentucky’s figure hit 330,476, or 7% of the national total. Its population is only 1.3% of the U.S. number.

At the current pace, gun sales in America will reach almost 45 million this year. It is too early to say whether the March trend will continue. However, it is nearly assured that 2021 will set another annual record.

This is how many guns were sold in each state in March:

State/Territory Total
Illinois 1,427,917
Kentucky 330,476
Texas 222,409
Indiana 206,884
Florida 178,247
Pennsylvania 154,301
California 143,742
Utah 112,572
Michigan 112,066
Alabama 107,474
Minnesota 105,224
Ohio 98,474
Georgia 95,449
Tennessee 93,979
North Carolina 90,090
Missouri 77,617
Wisconsin 76,885
Washington 74,860
Virginia 72,438
Colorado 69,757
Arizona 65,805
South Carolina 55,773
Oregon 49,752
New York 49,158
Oklahoma 48,568
Louisiana 46,633
Mississippi 38,031
Idaho 34,839
Arkansas 34,134
Iowa 32,870
Maryland 30,754
Massachusetts 28,257
Connecticut 28,021
West Virginia 27,426
Kansas 26,915
New Jersey 24,563
New Mexico 23,024
Nevada 21,101
Montana 18,329
New Hampshire 17,186
Maine 14,536
South Dakota 12,430
Nebraska 10,860
Alaska 10,170
Wyoming 9,348
North Dakota 9,200
Delaware 7,280
Vermont 5,909
Puerto Rico 5,475
Rhode Island 4,957
Hawaii 1,770
District of Columbia 1,035
Guam 404
Virgin Islands 206
Mariana Islands 29

Click here to see in which state over 20% of guns in America were sold.

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