Special Report

Where Criminals in Each State are Most Likely to Get Guns

The United States – along with Mexico and Guatemala – is one of only three countries in the world where gun ownership is a constitutional right. But while the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees American citizens the right to keep and bear arms, state governments have considerable leverage over gun control regulations – and buying a gun is much easier in some parts of the country than others. (These are the 22 states where gun sales are rebounding.

In Illinois, for example, gun buyers must be licensed and are legally subject to a waiting period and a background check. Other states, such as California, New Jersey, and New York, have similar laws and also place restrictions on the sale of assault-style rifles. Meanwhile, in states like Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas, none of these regulations apply. This patchwork of gun laws across the U.S. has helped criminals in creating a thriving black market for gun trafficking. 

In 2021, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives traced hundreds of thousands firearms back to where they were originally purchased. Firearms traced by the ATF are typically those found at crime scenes. These guns have either been used, or are suspected to have been used, to commit a crime. Of the nearly 360,000 guns traced back to their source last year, 27% came from out of state. 

Using 2021 tracing data from the ATF, 24/7 Wall St. identified the largest sources of firearms used in a crime in every state.

Without exception, the largest share of firearms traced by the ATF were originally sold in-state. Meanwhile, those that were determined to be from out of state typically came from a bordering state – though this was not always the case. 

For example, Texas, a state with some of the least restrictive gun laws in the country, was among the top three origin states for firearms traced by the ATF, not including the states it borders. Florida was among the top sources for firearms linked to crime in nine non-bordering states, and Georgia was among the top sources for eight. (These are the firearm calibers used the most to commit crimes in the U.S.

Click here to see where criminals in each state are most likely to get guns.

Click here to see our detailed methodology.

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