Consumer Products

This Is the State That Sells the Most Guns

The FBI data is the best available record of U.S. gun sales, even though private sales of firearms, including those at gun shows, are exempted from background checks in some states. A 2015 survey conducted by the Joyce Foundation and the Fund for a Safer Future found that 50% of the respondents who had bought guns privately in the previous two years had not undergone checks.

The FBI publishes a monthly list of how many federal background checks are conducted on potential gun buyers as part of its National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Nearly everyone put through this system qualifies. Of the more than 400 million checks that have been done since November 1998, there have only been 4 million denials. Those who are excluded usually have criminal records.

Since 1999, the first full year for which the FBI collected data, gun sales have risen annually. In 1999, 9,183,123 sales were recorded. Last year, the figure reached 39,695,315, up from 28,369,750 in 2019. In addition, gun sales through the first 10 months of 2021 totaled 33,060676, compared to 32,132,349 in the same period last year.

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,” according to the New York Times, “show that about a fifth of all Americans who bought guns last year were first-time gun owners.” The study also revealed that half of those new gun owners were women, a fifth were Black and a fifth were Hispanic.

Recent 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 pandemic was a major cause.

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].”

According to the FBI data, the state with the most gun sales through the first 10 months of this year was Illinois at more than 7.7 million. The state has only 4% of the U.S. population but accounted for 24% of gun sales for the period. In second place, Kentucky had about 3.1 million sales over the same period. That’s more than 8% of the guns sold nationwide, even though the state has only 1.3% of the population.

These are the gun sales for every state through the first 10 months of this year:

State / Territory Totals
Alabama 779,922
Alaska 76,225
Arizona 476,845
Arkansas 235,715
California 1,238,099
Colorado 525,295
Connecticut 236,613
Delaware 57,573
District of Columbia 10,372
Florida 1,431,049
Georgia 681,330
Guam 3,752
Hawaii 14,677
Idaho 226,232
Illinois 7,733,188
Indiana 1,580,420
Iowa 227,300
Kansas 188,005
Kentucky 3,100,798
Louisiana 326,066
Maine 106,690
Mariana Islands 285
Maryland 225,899
Massachusetts 222,220
Michigan 819,879
Minnesota 803,169
Mississippi 257,229
Missouri 520,910
Montana 133,128
Nebraska 75,148
Nevada 159,771
New Hampshire 127,895
New Jersey 195,386
New Mexico 162,595
New York 389,307
North Carolina 657,667
North Dakota 67,723
Ohio 706,321
Oklahoma 336,257
Oregon 378,704
Pennsylvania 1,178,589
Puerto Rico 60,469
Rhode Island 32,438
South Carolina 406,492
South Dakota 89,130
Tennessee 793,338
Texas 1,643,592
Utah 1,004,197
Vermont 43,283
Virgin Islands 1,784
Virginia 537,675
Washington 611,387
West Virginia 180,696
Wisconsin 652,974
Wyoming 68,941

Click here to see in which state gun sales have been surging.