America is, without question, the gun capital of the world. By one estimate, the total number of guns in circulation nationwide has reached 400 million, which is over one for every person in the nation. America also has among the highest gun violence in the world. According to the Gun Violence Archive, 38,062 Americans have been killed by guns in 2022. (Here are the states where the most murders are committed with a gun.)
In a typical month, firearm background checks, a proxy for gun sales, top 2 million nationwide, though notably, gun sales vary widely from state to state. So despite a downward trajectory in gun sales, they have recently started rising again in several states.
The first full year the FBI had reported gun background checks was 1999, when the figure was 9,138,123. The figure topped 10 million in 2006, and 20 million in 2013. It has risen most years since then.
In 2020, gun background checks surged to 39,695,315. The increase started in March, during the first surge in COVID-19 infections, and remained high through the end of the year. There is no definitive cause. One theory is that as the COVID-19 pandemic began, people were worried about their safety. Another is that the social unrest toward the end of that year created similar anxiety among many Americans.
In 2021, background checks dropped very slightly to 38,876,673. This year, they will be nearly 30 million.
There are several ways to measure state gun sales, by raw numbers, per capita figures, or monthly or annual changes in background checks. While looking at one month’s change provides a snapshot, comparisons of changes over time can give an idea of the prevailing trends in a state.
To determine which states are running against the national tide of falling gun sales, 24/7 Wall St. looked at states where background checks increased in each month of the last three months. This allowed us to consider a trend, and not just a snapshot. We found that in 10 states background checks were higher in October than they were in July. Still, in all but one state, gun sales so far this year remain lower than in the same period last year. (Also see,h house representatives who do the most to help the American gun industry.)
Using data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, 24/7 Wall St. listed all 10 states that reported monthly increases in firearm background checks in August, September, and October of 2022. States are ranked in order of the percentage increase in background checks between July and October of this year. Population figures are one-year estimates from the Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey.
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