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Gun Sales in Every State Ranked

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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 350 million checks that have been done since 1998, there have only been 2 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 was a major cause. A 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.”

The New York Times points out that pandemic gun sales are largely over. While people who already own guns have been buying more, there is a new group of buyers. “New preliminary data from Northeastern University and the Harvard Injury Control Research Center show that about a fifth of all Americans who bought guns last year were first-time gun owners.” More of these buyers are people of color and women.

NPR commented on another trend: “Most often, the first-timers are purchasing a semiautomatic handgun, outpacing the second-most-purchased firearm, shotguns, by 2 to 1, according to NSSF [National Shooting Sports Foundation].”

U.S. gun sales in the first seven months of 2021 surged 13% to 25,125,896 from the same seven months last year. This makes it the largest first seven months of the year figure since sales were first recorded in 1998.

The increase is part of a trend. Sales of guns 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 July and for the first seven months varied substantially, as has been the case for years.

The gun sales increases in July and first seven months of 2021 should not be taken as unusual, nor should the rise in sales from 2019 to 2020 be viewed as an anomaly. They have increased most years since 1999. Annual 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 gun sales through the first seven months was Illinois at 6,707,482. The state has only 4% of the population but accounted for 27% of gun sales for the period. In second place, Kentucky had 1,984,388 sales in the first seven months of 2021. That is over 7% of the guns sold nationwide, even though the state has only 1.3% of the U.S. population.

Here are 2021 gun sales ranked by state, including the District of Columbia and some territories:

Illinois: 6,707,482
Kentucky: 1,984,388
Indiana: 1,244,066
Texas: 1,197,967
Florida: 1,059,122
California: 886,292
Pennsylvania: 863,914
Utah: 733,790
Michigan: 610,029
Tennessee: 590,497
Alabama: 581,290
Minnesota: 568,852
Ohio: 530,395
Georgia: 519,142
North Carolina: 497,299
Wisconsin: 455,437
Washington: 438,343
Virginia: 397,518
Missouri: 387,999
Colorado: 386,038
Arizona: 360,924
South Carolina: 299,794
New York: 278,258
Oregon: 275,189
Oklahoma: 249,508
Louisiana: 241,517
Mississippi: 188,058
Connecticut: 180,514
Iowa: 174,518
Arkansas: 173,978
Maryland: 170,047
Idaho: 167,472
Massachusetts: 163,387
New Jersey: 151,141
Kansas: 137,411
West Virginia: 134,231
New Mexico: 119,756
Nevada: 118,543
Montana: 95,347
New Hampshire: 94,727
Maine: 74,104
South Dakota: 63,717
Nebraska: 55,731
Alaska: 55,113
Wyoming: 50,907
North Dakota: 47,856
Delaware: 42,905
Puerto Rico: 41,396
Vermont: 31,340
Rhode Island: 25,261
Hawaii: 9,761
District of Columbia: 6,884
Guam: 2,547
Virgin Islands: 1,333
Mariana Islands: 169

Click here to read about 2021 gun sales in America reaching 25.1 million.

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