Special Report

Gun Background Checks Down Sharply This Year

Detailed Findings and Methodology:

Many gun industry analysts believe background checks serve as a proxy for the strength of gun sales.

Some industry observers believe there was a surge in gun sales in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election out of fear that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would advocate tougher gun laws.

Kentucky, a state with a population of 4.4 million, is the state with the most background checks — 2.2 million so far this year, according to NICS data. That comes to more than one for every two residents.

Kentucky requires monthly background checks on concealed carry holders. Kentucky firearm vendors must do an NICS background check each time they sell a firearm, unless the buyer has a Kentucky concealed carry permit.

Illinois had the second-highest number of background checks with about 813,000 and California was next with about 799,000. However, when adjusted for population, California has relatively few checks. Minnesota ranked second highest for per capita backgrounds checks.

A study reported in the journal Injury Prevention last year estimated that 300 million Americans owned guns in 2013. According to the data, the highest concentration of these was in the Plains states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, along with Arkansas and West Virginia.

Gun ownership in each state was obtained from a study published in 2015 from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. The survey asked state residents whether they live in a household with at least one firearm of any kind. Firearm death data came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and are as of 2015.

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