Consumer Products

Gun Sales Hit Record 16 Million. Here's Every State Ranked.

U.S. gun sales in the first four months of 2021 surged 31% to 15,966,389. This makes it among the largest figures since sales 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 April and for the first four months 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 increases in April and first four months 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 gun sales through the first four months was Illinois at 4,287,494. The state has only 4% of the population but accounted for 27% of gun sales for the period. In second place, there were 1,169,179 sales in Kentucky in the first four 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.

These are the number of guns sold by state in the first four months of 2021:

State/Territory Total
Illinois 4,287,494
Kentucky 1,169,179
Indiana 851,583
Texas 756,770
Florida 670,846
Pennsylvania 561,411
California 524,243
Utah 422,644
Michigan 406,159
Alabama 376,018
Minnesota 364,282
Ohio 348,396
Georgia 340,465
Tennessee 328,112
North Carolina 323,580
Washington 278,314
Wisconsin 275,379
Virginia 258,004
Missouri 257,027
Colorado 246,211
Arizona 227,679
South Carolina 192,306
New York 176,683
Oregon 175,907
Oklahoma 164,245
Louisiana 150,983
Mississippi 124,055
Iowa 121,811
Maryland 111,365
Idaho 110,596
Arkansas 110,087
Connecticut 106,588
Massachusetts 104,502
New Jersey 98,121
West Virginia 92,488
Kansas 91,226
New Mexico 77,793
Nevada 74,995
New Hampshire 63,694
Montana 63,355
Maine 48,778
South Dakota 43,725
Nebraska 38,037
Alaska 34,933
Wyoming 32,857
North Dakota 31,490
Delaware 27,447
Puerto Rico 20,923
Vermont 20,826
Rhode Island 17,778
Hawaii 6,138
District of Columbia 4,081
Guam 1,372
Virgin Islands 690
Mariana Islands 89

Click here to see how many people have died of gun violence this year.