Consumer Products

Gun Sales Plunge: Here Are Each State's Figures

After several years during which U.S. gun sales rose, capped by a 2020 surge blamed mostly on the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest, in 2021, figures started to level. They currently are dropping sharply, according to FBI data. Guns sales declined over 10% year over year in September to 2,226,389. Total 2021 sales may drop below the 2020 annual figure.

For the first three quarters of 2021, gun sales reached 30,467,508. That compared to 28,626,509 for the same period last year. However, fourth-quarter 2020 guns sales were strong and, based on current trends, are unlikely to be matched this October, November and December.

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.

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 [the National Shooting Sports Foundation].”

Despite what could be a drop this year, gun sales 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 in September was Kentucky with 370,706. That is 17% of national sales, though the state has only 1.3% of the population.

Here are total sales by state or territory for the first nine months of this year:

  • Alabama (713,423)
  • Alaska (68,653)
  • Arizona (438,322)
  • Arkansas (214,197)
  • California (1,123,955)
  • Colorado (478,331)
  • Connecticut (216,146)
  • Delaware (52,352)
  • District of Columbia (9,030)
  • Florida (1,305,111)
  • Georgia (627,128)
  • Guam (3,349)
  • Hawaii (13,107)
  • Idaho (205,910)
  • Illinois (7,481,507)
  • Indiana (1,468,192)
  • Iowa (209,181)
  • Kansas (170,476)
  • Kentucky (2,730,364)
  • Louisiana (294,273)
  • Maine (94,671)
  • Mariana Islands (254)
  • Maryland (206,959)
  • Massachusetts (203,042)
  • Michigan (748,584)
  • Minnesota (719,163)
  • Mississippi (233,742)
  • Missouri (473,180)
  • Montana (119,161)
  • Nebraska (68,593)
  • Nevada (146,628)
  • New Hampshire (116,526)
  • New Jersey (181,478)
  • New Mexico (148,540)
  • New York (351,254)
  • North Carolina (603,914)
  • North Dakota (60,362)
  • Ohio (644,917)
  • Oklahoma (305,898)
  • Oregon (343,606)
  • Pennsylvania (1,068,542)
  • Puerto Rico (53,380)
  • Rhode Island (30,020)
  • South Carolina (370,614)
  • South Dakota (79,081)
  • Tennessee (723,700)
  • Texas (1,496,999)
  • Utah (916,042)
  • Vermont (38,983)
  • Virgin Islands (1,615)
  • Virginia (488,208)
  • Washington (550,260)
  • West Virginia (163,937)
  • Wisconsin (584,957)
  • Wyoming (62,914)

Click here to see which are the top states for gun sales.