Special Report

States Where the Most People Have Bought Guns So Far This Year

Through the first two months of 2023, roughly 5.1 million firearm background checks were conducted in the United States, according to data compiled by the FBI. That figure represents a slight increase compared to the first two months of 2022. Firearm background checks are often used to approximate the level of gun sales in the United States. (These are the companies selling the most guns, according to an online gun broker.)

However, there are a number of reasons to initiate a background check that are clearly not tied to gun sales, including rentals and pawn shop transactions. After controlling for some of these non-purchase causes, there were 3.3 million background checks that are likely tied to the purchase of a firearm through the end of February, or 9.9 checks per 1,000 Americans. 

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 checks per 1000 people in the first two months of 2023, adjusted by removing several categories of checks, including pawn shop transactions, returns, rentals, and rechecks (which are conducted periodically by some states on existing permit holders). 

We also adjusted the figures for Illinois, a state that reports an extremely high number of firearm background checks. Based on historical data, however, a large percentage of checks in Illinois are likely rechecks and not tied to the purchasing of a new firearm. 

The vast majority of states with the most checks per person are in the South, Midwest, or West. The No. 1 state, Oregon, had 23.4 background checks per 1,000 residents, more than double the national figure. At the other end of the list are states in the Northeast and West Coast, including California, Hawaii, New Jersey, and New York, which are among the five states with the strictest gun control laws. (See how all 50 states rank for the strength of their gun control laws.)

Click here to see states where the most people have bought guns so far this year.

Click here to see our detailed methodology.

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