Special Report

Gun Sales Plunged in Every State So Far in 2022

Gun violence has become a regular part of the news headlines this year. Murders in American cities spiked in 2021, particularly in large cities. So far this year, the trend has continued. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a surge in gun violence in Seattle, which is generally considered a relatively safe city. (These are the metros where murder rate is soaring.)

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there already have been 9,558 gun deaths in America so far in 2022. Even with stricter gun ownership and purchasing laws, the difficult fact is that about 400 million guns are currently owned by private citizens, the police, and the military. The chance that civilians who own guns will turn them into the government, no matter what the incentive, is small. (Violent crime in general has been rising. These are the states where crime is soaring.)

Gun sales, meanwhile, have been increasing in recent years. There are several theories explaining the sharp rise in gun sales, particularly in 2020. Among them is the violence in American cities during protests. Another theory is that the pandemic, perhaps irrationally, has increased concerns about protecting one’s property. The 2022 background checks figures show that some of these trends may have started to taper off.

The trend in gun sales began to change already in 2021 compared to most other years in the past decade, though gun sales still remained at elevated levels compared to previous years. Gun sales, using the FBI’s firearms background checks as a proxy, reached 38,876,673 in 2021. This was down slightly from the record set in 2020 of 39,695,315.

Inexplicably, gun sales collapsed in the first two months of this year, compared to the same period in 2021. So far, the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System reported 5,146,500 background checks, compared to 7,760,581 in January and February of 2021. That means the 2022 number was only 66% of the number for 2021.

Total gun sales remained high in some states. They were particularly large in Illinois, with 782,222 background checks during January and February. 

To find out by how much gun sales plunged in each state so far this year, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed background checks data from Jan. 1, 2022, to Feb. 28, 2022, from the FBI’s NICS Firearm Checks. States were ranked by the change in gun sales in the first two months of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021. We used background checks as a proxy for gun sales. Population data came from the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Here are the gun sales figures for the first two months of 2022 for all 50 states

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