Special Report

States Where The Most People Bought Guns Last Month

The Oregon House of Representatives passed this week a gun control package, which would increase the minimum age to buy most guns to 21 — with the exception of some hunting rifles — and prevent the sale of homemade guns without serial numbers (sometimes called ghost guns). It also gives local governments within the state the right to institute concealed carry bans. The bill, which advocates described as a “common sense,” will go to the state senate, and is expected to pass there as well. (Also check out the states with the loosest gun laws.)

The looming legislation may have inspired a rush to buy guns in the state before greater restrictions are to be put in place. There is no direct way to track gun sales in the United States, but based on the closest available approximation, firearm background checks, Oregon had the second-most guns purchased last month, and checks were up nearly 50% in the state compared to the same month a year ago. 

About 2.6 million firearm background checks were conducted in the United States in April, according to data compiled by the FBI. That figure represents a decrease of more than 300,000 checks compared to March but an increase of about 80,000 checks compared to April of last year. These checks, however, include background checks initiated for reasons that are not tied to the direct purchasing of a firearm, including rentals and pawn shop transactions.

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 – amounting to about 5.2 checks per 1,000 residents nationwide – are more likely to be tied to the sale of a gun.

To find the states where the most people bought guns last month, 24/7 Wall St. used data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. States are ranked based on the number of gun background checks in April 2023 per 1,000 state residents. We adjusted the number of background checks by excluding the aforementioned categories that are not tied to the direct purchasing of a firearm. Even after removing these categories, background checks still only serve as a rough approximation of gun sales and they are likely over or under estimation in some states.

Click here to see states where the most people bought guns last month.
Click here to see our detailed methodology.

Based on last month’s background checks, states in the West had the highest gun sales per capita. All six top states for background checks per person are Western states. In the No. 1 state, Idaho, 24,505 checks were initiated last month, or 12.6 per 1,000 residents. On the other end of the list, the states with the fewest gun sales per person are either in the Northeast or in left-leaning Pacific states like Hawaii and California. Hawaii ranks lowest, with just 1,912 firearm background checks initiated last month in a state with 1.4 million people. (Also see: the states with the strictest gun laws.


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