Gun sales, as approximated by background checks, surged in 2020 to 39,695,315 just as the COVID-19 pandemic began. They remained high through the middle of last year, and then started to decline. Though overall background checks fell to 38,876,673 in 2021, they only began returning to pre-pandemic levels last year. For all of 2022, gun sales were 31,596,646, a considerable drop from 2021 but still higher than the 28,369,750 background checks in 2019.
The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System publishes a monthly list of how many firearm background checks are conducted on potential gun buyers. Nearly everyone put through this system qualifies. Of the more than 400 million checks conducted since November 1998, there have only been 2.1 million denials. More than half of those who are denied have criminal records.
Background checks by state can reveal gun sales trends within a state. Sales in all states but four declined In 2022 compared to 2021. Sales were under 50,000 in only three states. In two states, Illinois and Kentucky, background checks topped 4 million for the year. (Find out which Americans own the most guns.)
To compare between states, however, background checks per person would be a better metric. Nationwide, there were 94.8 background checks per 1,000 people in 2022, a decline from 116. 6 per 1,000 in 2021.
To find states with the most gun purchases per person, 24/7 Wall St. used FBI data from its NICS, ranking states based on gun background checks in 2022 per 1,000 people in each state. Population data came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population and Housing Unit Estimates Program, and are for July of 2022.
Kentucky’s firearm background checks per capita for 2022 were 890.1 per 1,000 people, the highest of all states. Illinois and Utah were next, with 300 and 356 background checks per 1,000 people, respectively. Rounding out the top five are Indiana and Minnesota, where there were 162 and 156 background checks per 1,000 people in the state. The lowest figure was 13.1 checks per 1,000 people in Hawaii. (These are the states where the government is profiting the most from gun sales.)
One reason for the large variation in background checks compared to the national average is that in some states permit rechecks are a big part of the state’s overall firearm background checks.
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