Consumer Products

Nearly 20% of Guns Sold in America Are in This One State

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 (NICS). 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 300 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.

Gun sales have soared in the past year. They have reached 35,758,249 through November. That is more than the 28,369,750 for all of last year. Growing civil unrest may have prompted people to buy guns for personal and family protection. 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 is buying these guns? A New York Times analysis shows that buyers cut across almost all demographic groups. Gun ownership has continued to be a flashpoint across the country, as the debate about who should own a gun and what kind of guns should be lawful continues, as it has for decades.

The rise in gun sales from 2019 to 2020 is not an anomaly. The number of gun sales has increased most years since 1999. At the current pace, 2020 sales will reach well over 35 million. Sales first topped 25 million in 2016, 20 million in 2013, 15 million in 2011 and 10 million in 2006. The first full year the FBI kept data was 1999, when total sales were 9,138,123.

The rate of gun sales is by no means uniform from state to state, nor is the growth level. Among all states, Illinois has posted the highest sales so far this year, by far, at 6,625,082. That is almost 18% of U.S. gun sales in 2020, although the state has less than 4% of the nation’s population.

It is nearly certain Illinois gun sales will reach 7 million this year.

These are the states where people are buying the most guns.

These are the number of guns sold by state, with the figures for November and the first 11 months of 2020:

State/Territory November Sales YTD Sales
Illinois 550,784 6,625,082
Kentucky 377,139 2,922,940
Texas 197,225 2,119,665
Florida 176,987 1,739,256
Indiana 242,048 1,672,457
California 130,793 1,465,612
Pennsylvania 149,401 1,325,979
Utah 105,024 1,117,855
Alabama 91,839 984,548
Michigan 105,882 974,072
Tennessee 86,872 894,696
Ohio 94,205 891,551
Minnesota 84,754 876,907
Georgia 80,510 817,384
North Carolina 83,270 808,608
Virginia 68,774 753,479
Washington 72,267 707,741
Wisconsin 71,736 670,079
Missouri 65,193 641,512
Colorado 61,362 620,268
Arizona 54,444 610,911
South Carolina 50,441 481,473
Oregon 44,818 469,522
New York 49,623 463,070
Oklahoma 43,560 424,944
Louisiana 43,007 385,848
Mississippi 34,182 328,728
Arkansas 30,770 293,123
Maryland 31,332 273,278
Idaho 25,663 253,741
West Virginia 25,147 241,148
Iowa 24,215 239,577
Massachusetts 27,378 238,096
Kansas 24,622 225,715
Nevada 18,343 202,011
Connecticut 21,498 197,883
New Mexico 15,706 186,815
New Hampshire 16,772 160,212
New Jersey 22,951 156,739
Montana 15,410 155,604
Maine 12,310 125,503
South Dakota 12,543 103,711
Nebraska 10,926 93,548
Alaska 8,510 90,056
Wyoming 9,719 81,648
North Dakota 7,883 77,380
Delaware 7,568 70,391
Vermont 4,957 52,855
Rhode Island 4,966 47,367
Puerto Rico 3,604 27,232
Hawaii 1,722 18,096
District of Columbia 1,066 10,377
Guam 345 3,286
Virgin Islands 217 1,428
Mariana Islands 13 193