With four separate incidents across the country this past Sunday, the United States counted 102 mass shootings so far this year, the fastest it has reached that figure since the Gun Violence Archive began tracking these events. The country is on track to reach close to 600 mass shootings this year, which, while shockingly high, would still be fewer than the record-high 670 incidents recorded in 2021. Enacting some gun control measures last year, President Joe Biden signed into law a measure that enhances background checks for those under the age of 21.
Last month, about 2.5 million firearm background checks were conducted in the United States, according to data compiled by the FBI. That figure represents a slight decline compared to January, when 2.6 million checks were conducted, but is in line with the number of checks conducted in February 2022. Background checks are often used to approximate the level of gun sales in the United States. However, background checks can be initiated for a number of reasons that are clearly not tied to gun sales, including rentals and pawn shop transactions. (Also see, guns with the most online sales in 2022.)
To find the states where the most people bought guns last month, 24/7 Wall St. used FBI data from its National Instant Criminal Background Check System. States are ranked based on the number of gun background checks in February 2023 per 1,000 people in each state. To get closer to an accurate reflection of true gun sales, we excluded several categories of checks, including pawn shop transactions, returns, rentals, and rechecks, which are conducted periodically by some states on existing permit holders. After these adjustments, the remaining 1.7 million background checks are more likely to be tied to the sale of a gun, or about 5.0 checks per 1,000 residents nationwide.
Firearm background checks are a frequent key topic in the debate over gun control policy in the United States. Currently, the federal government only requires background checks before the sale of guns at federally licensed arms dealers and not private gun shops. Many states have their own additional policies. As of last year, 17 states required a criminal background check for the sale of all firearms, and another four mandated checks only for the sale of handguns. (These are the countries Americans buy the most handguns from.)
Based on February’s background checks data, states in the Midwest, the South, and the West bought the most guns per capita last month. On the other end of the list, four of the six states with the fewest background checks per 1,000 residents were in the Northeast. Hawaii ranked lowest, with just 1,722 permit checks initiated, or 0.9 per 1,000 people.
Click here to see states where the most people bought guns last month.
Click here to see our detailed methodology.
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