Guns and Hunting

States Where the Most People Bought Guns in May 2024

Presidential Candidates Address NRA Annual Meeting In St. Louis
2012 Getty Images / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Nearly topping 60 million between 2020 and 2022, gun sales in the U.S. hit all-time highs during the COVID-19 pandemic. While an exact tally does not exist, the latest estimates indicate there now may be as many as 494 million civilian-owned firearms in circulation nationwide — or about 148 for every 100 people — making the U.S. the only country in the world with more guns than people.

Notably, however, the national gun ownership rate is hovering near historic lows. According to the gun control advocacy group Violence Policy Center, only 35% of American adults live in a household with a firearm, compared to more than 40% in the late 1990s, and over 50% in the early 1980s. These numbers suggest that firearm sales are not driven by first-time buyers, but rather, by Americans who already own guns.

Guns can serve any number of functions, from home protection and self-defense, to hunting and sport shooting — and firearms designed for a specific application are rarely optimal for other purposes. A hunting rifle, for example, is not a concealed carry weapon, and a small caliber pistol would not be a big-game hunter’s first choice. Partially as a result, most American gun owners — 66% according to a survey from the Pew Research Center — have more than one firearm. (Here is a look at the most versatile hunting rifles.)

Including current gun owners and first-time buyers alike, consumer demand for firearms remains strong in the United States. According to the latest federal background check figures, Americans bought more than 1.4 million guns in May 2024 alone.

Using data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states where the most people bought guns in May 2024. States are ranked on the number of firearm background checks initiated through the NICS in May 2024 for every 1,000 residents. Background rechecks for existing gun permits were excluded. Population data is from the Census Bureau’s Population and Housing Unit Estimates program, and data on the number of age-adjusted deaths due to firearms for every 100,000 people is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Adjusting for population, estimated gun sales in May 2024 ranges by state from 0.9 for every 1,000 people to 10.6 per 1,000. For context, there were 4.3 firearm sales for every 1,000 people nationwide last month.

Most of the 10 states with the highest rate of gun sales in May are in the West. Meanwhile, states with the lowest gun sale rates are mostly concentrated along the Atlantic of Pacific coasts.

Gun sales tend to correlate with firearm-related fatality rates. Of the 10 highest ranking states on this list, eight have a higher annual gun death rate than the U.S. average of 14.2 per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, in nine of the 10 lowest ranking states, the annual gun death rate is below the national average. (This is how the U.S. compares to the countries with the highest rates of gun violence.)

Why It Matters

The National Rifle Association Kicks Off Its Annual Meeting In Louisville
Source: 2008 Getty Images / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Firearms are big business in the United States. Both directly and indirectly, the U.S. arms and ammunition industry generated over $90 billion in economic output and employed over 384,000 Americans in 2023, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. In recent years, surging demand for firearms has been a boon for American gunmakers.

50. Hawaii

Source: andym5855 / Flickr
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 0.9 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 1,357 (the lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 4.5 deaths per 100,000 residents (3rd lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 1,435,138 (3rd lowest of 50 states)

49. New York

  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 1.2 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 24,124 (23rd highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 5.3 deaths per 100,000 residents (5th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 19,571,216 (5th lowest of 50 states)

48. New Jersey

Source: Spencer Platt / Getty Images News via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 1.2 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 11,508 (14th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 5.0 deaths per 100,000 residents (4th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 9,290,841 (4th lowest of 50 states)

47. Rhode Island

Browning pistol | Guns for sale
Source: artas / iStock via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 1.6 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 1,771 (2nd lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 3.1 deaths per 100,000 residents (the lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 1,095,962 (the lowest of 50 states)

46. Iowa

Source: lynngrae / iStock via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 2.3 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 7,487 (11th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 11.2 deaths per 100,000 residents (10th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 3,207,004 (10th lowest of 50 states)

45. Nebraska

Source: dlewis33 / E+ via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 2.4 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 4,834 (6th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 12.2 deaths per 100,000 residents (14th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 1,978,379 (14th lowest of 50 states)

44. California

  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 2.9 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 113,016 (2nd highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 8.6 deaths per 100,000 residents (7th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 38,965,193 (7th lowest of 50 states)

43. Massachusetts

Source: Boston Globe / Boston Globe via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 3.0 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 20,774 (25th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 3.7 deaths per 100,000 residents (2nd lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 7,001,399 (2nd lowest of 50 states)

42. Illinois

Source: 2023 Getty Images / Getty Images News via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 3.3 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 40,956 (10th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 14.4 deaths per 100,000 residents (20th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 12,549,689 (20th lowest of 50 states)

41. Maryland

Source: Anadolu Agency / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 3.3 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 20,676 (24th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 13.6 deaths per 100,000 residents (16th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 6,180,253 (16th lowest of 50 states)

40. Georgia

NRA Celebrates Firearms at Annual Meeting In Atlanta
Source: 2017 Getty Images / Getty Images News via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 3.6 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 39,567 (12th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 19.7 deaths per 100,000 residents (14th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 11,029,227 (14th highest of 50 states)

39. Ohio

Source: bagli / Wikimedia Commons
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 3.6 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 42,565 (8th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 15.6 deaths per 100,000 residents (25th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 11,785,935 (25th highest of 50 states)

38. Nevada

  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 3.7 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 11,817 (15th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 18.9 deaths per 100,000 residents (15th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 3,194,176 (15th highest of 50 states)

37. Vermont

Source: Bim / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 3.8 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 2,456 (3rd lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 12.0 deaths per 100,000 residents (13th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 647,464 (13th lowest of 50 states)

36. Louisiana

AUSA Annual Meeting And Exposition Held In Washington, D.C.
Source: 2023 Getty Images / Getty Images News via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 3.8 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 17,437 (21st lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 28.2 deaths per 100,000 residents (2nd highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 4,573,749 (2nd highest of 50 states)

35. Texas

Source: 2023 Getty Images / Getty Images News via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 4.0 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 122,363 (the highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 15.3 deaths per 100,000 residents (25th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 30,503,301 (25th lowest of 50 states)

34. Kansas

Kansas+guns | Please Check All Firearms at the Greeter's Desk
Source: ryanh / Flickr
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 4.1 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 12,097 (17th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 16.8 deaths per 100,000 residents (21st highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 2,940,546 (21st highest of 50 states)

33. Kentucky

Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images News via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 4.1 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 18,700 (23rd lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 18.8 deaths per 100,000 residents (16th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 4,526,154 (16th highest of 50 states)

32. Delaware

Source: LifestyleVisuals / iStock via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 4.3 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 4,387 (4th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 11.9 deaths per 100,000 residents (12th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 1,031,890 (12th lowest of 50 states)

31. Florida

Source: Joe Raedle / Getty Images News via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 4.3 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 96,736 (3rd highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 14.0 deaths per 100,000 residents (18th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 22,610,726 (18th lowest of 50 states)

30. Washington

Source: Anadolu Agency / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 4.3 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 33,621 (18th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 12.4 deaths per 100,000 residents (15th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 7,812,880 (15th lowest of 50 states)

29. Virginia

Source: Anadolu Agency / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 4.3 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 37,536 (15th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 14.9 deaths per 100,000 residents (23rd lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 8,715,698 (23rd lowest of 50 states)

28. Indiana

Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images News via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 4.4 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 30,092 (20th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 17.4 deaths per 100,000 residents (17th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 6,862,199 (17th highest of 50 states)

27. South Carolina

Source: Kristover / Wikimedia Commons
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 4.6 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 24,651 (22nd highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 20.8 deaths per 100,000 residents (9th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 5,373,555 (9th highest of 50 states)

26. North Carolina

Source: J. Michael Jones / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 4.7 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 50,427 (6th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 16.8 deaths per 100,000 residents (20th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 10,835,491 (20th highest of 50 states)

25. Arkansas

Source: artas / iStock via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 5.0 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 15,325 (19th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 21.9 deaths per 100,000 residents (8th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 3,067,732 (8th highest of 50 states)

24. Michigan

Source: Bill Pugliano / Getty Images News via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 5.1 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 51,379 (5th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 15.0 deaths per 100,000 residents (24th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 10,037,261 (24th lowest of 50 states)

23. Connecticut

Source: John Moore / Getty Images News via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 5.2 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 18,693 (22nd lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 6.9 deaths per 100,000 residents (6th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 3,617,176 (6th lowest of 50 states)

22. Mississippi

Source: CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 5.3 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 15,576 (20th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 29.6 deaths per 100,000 residents (the highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 2,939,690 (the highest of 50 states)

21. Maine

Source: The Washington Post / The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 5.3 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 7,405 (10th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 11.7 deaths per 100,000 residents (11th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 1,395,722 (11th lowest of 50 states)

20. Arizona

Source: AFP / AFP via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 5.3 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 39,687 (11th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 20.1 deaths per 100,000 residents (12th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 7,431,344 (12th highest of 50 states)

19. South Dakota

Source: picture alliance / picture alliance via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 5.4 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 4,971 (7th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 15.7 deaths per 100,000 residents (24th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 919,318 (24th highest of 50 states)

18. Missouri

Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images News via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 5.5 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 33,881 (17th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 24.2 deaths per 100,000 residents (5th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 6,196,156 (5th highest of 50 states)

17. Minnesota

Source: eekim / Flickr
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 5.5 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 31,758 (19th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 9.6 deaths per 100,000 residents (8th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 5,737,915 (8th lowest of 50 states)

16. New Mexico

  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 5.7 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 12,008 (16th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 27.3 deaths per 100,000 residents (3rd highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 2,114,371 (3rd highest of 50 states)

15. Tennessee

Source: Feifei Cui-Paoluzzo / Moment via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 5.8 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 41,349 (9th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 20.5 deaths per 100,000 residents (10th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 7,126,489 (10th highest of 50 states)

14. North Dakota

Source: Mike Kemp / In Pictures via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 5.8 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 4,562 (5th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 16.4 deaths per 100,000 residents (22nd highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 783,926 (22nd highest of 50 states)

13. Wisconsin

Source: beigephotos / Flickr
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 5.8 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 34,423 (16th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 14.0 deaths per 100,000 residents (19th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 5,910,955 (19th lowest of 50 states)

12. Oklahoma

  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 5.9 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 24,017 (24th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 19.8 deaths per 100,000 residents (13th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 4,053,824 (13th highest of 50 states)

11. Pennsylvania

Source: Spencer Platt / Getty Images News via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 6.3 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 81,703 (4th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 14.7 deaths per 100,000 residents (22nd lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 12,961,683 (22nd lowest of 50 states)

10. Colorado

Source: mtcurado / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 6.6 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 38,814 (13th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 17.1 deaths per 100,000 residents (18th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 5,877,610 (18th highest of 50 states)

9. West Virginia

Source: jfbenning / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 7.1 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 12,528 (18th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 16.2 deaths per 100,000 residents (23rd highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 1,770,071 (23rd highest of 50 states)

8. Utah

Source: GEORGE FREY / AFP via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 7.3 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 25,116 (21st highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 13.7 deaths per 100,000 residents (17th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 3,417,734 (17th lowest of 50 states)

7. New Hampshire

Source: DOMINICK REUTER / AFP via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 7.7 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 10,783 (12th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 10.1 deaths per 100,000 residents (9th lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 1,402,054 (9th lowest of 50 states)

6. Alabama

Source: Barry Lewis / In Pictures via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 8.3 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 42,630 (7th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 25.5 deaths per 100,000 residents (4th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 5,108,468 (4th highest of 50 states)

5. Alaska

Welcome to Alaska sign
Source: Richard Martin / Wikimedia Commons
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 8.5 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 6,259 (9th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 22.4 deaths per 100,000 residents (7th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 733,406 (7th highest of 50 states)

4. Oregon

Source: ROB KERR / AFP via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 9.1 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 38,550 (14th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 14.4 deaths per 100,000 residents (21st lowest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 4,233,358 (21st lowest of 50 states)

3. Wyoming

Source: Melissa Kopka / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 9.3 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 5,425 (8th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 20.4 deaths per 100,000 residents (11th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 584,057 (11th highest of 50 states)

2. Montana

  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 10.0 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 11,379 (13th lowest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 23.9 deaths per 100,000 residents (6th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 1,132,812 (6th highest of 50 states)

1. Idaho

  • Firearm background checks per capita, May 2024: 10.6 per 1,000 residents
  • Total firearm background checks, May 2024: 20,868 (25th highest of 50 states)
  • Firearm mortality, 2022: 17.0 deaths per 100,000 residents (19th highest of 50 states)
  • Total population, 2023: 1,964,726 (19th highest of 50 states)

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us?
Contact the 24/7 Wall St. editorial team.