Several theories explain the fast pace of gun sales over the past 24 months. Among them is the violence in American cities during protests, which occurred over a year ago. Another is that the pandemic has, perhaps irrationally, increased concerns about protecting one’s property. 2021 gun sales numbers show that some of these trends may have started to taper off.
Gun sales, using the FBI’s firearms background check as a proxy, reached 38,876,673 last year, down slightly from the record set in 2020 of 39,695,315. Inexplicably, gun sales collapsed in the first three months of this year compared to the same period in 2021. Still, sales were particularly large in Illinois, the state where people bought the most guns this year, at 1,167,252. It was followed by Kentucky, with 1,071,206 background checks so far this year.
As of March, the FBI had conducted 8,228,224 background checks, compared to last year’s 12,452,319 background checks. This means the 2022 number from January through March was only 70% of the number during the same period in 2021. The total remained high in some states.
Despite the recent sales decline, gun violence continues to be a regular part of the news headlines this year. Murders in American cities spiked last year, particularly in large cities. So far in 2022, the trend has continued. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a surge in gun violence in Seattle, which is considered a relatively safe city. There have been more shooting incidents in recent days, including Tuesday’s shooting at a Brooklyn subway that left at least 16 people injured. (These are the metros where murder rate is soaring.)
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there already have been 11,881 gun deaths in America as of April 12. Even with stricter gun ownership and purchasing laws, the difficult fact is that private citizens, the police, and the military currently own about 400 million guns. The chance that civilians who own guns will turn them into the government, no matter the incentive, is small. (This is the state with the worst gun laws.)
To determine the state where people have bought the most guns so far this year, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on background checks from Jan. 1, 2022, to March 31, 2022, from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System Firearm Checks. We used the background checks as a proxy for year-to-date gun sales as the vast majority of background checks are approved. Population data used to calculate gun sales per capita came from the U.S. Census Bureau.
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