Special Report

16 States Where Gun Sales Are Still Skyrocketing

Oregon appears to be on the brink of becoming the latest state to introduce stricter gun control measures in the wake of the nation’s seemingly-endless stream of mass shootings. The state House of Representatives passed a gun control package that prohibits the sale of guns made at home without serial numbers (so called “ghost guns”) and increases the minimum age to buy most guns to 21, among other regulations. Now, based on data the FBI  released on Tuesday, it appears that news of the legislation working its way through the state government may have prompted a spike in gun sales in the state. 

Oregon’s background checks — a measure often used as a proxy for gun sales — spiked by almost 50% compared to the same period a year ago. While on the whole background checks are down nationwide, there are some states where gun sales appear to still be on the rise. (Also check out the states with the loosest gun laws.)

To identify the states where gun sales are increasing most, 24/7 Wall St. used data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Sixteen states reported increases in adjusted firearm background checks between April 2022 and April 2023. To reach a more accurate approximation of gun sales, we adjusted background checks by excluding checks for such categories as pawn shop transactions, returns, rentals, and rechecks (which are conducted periodically by some states on existing permit holders). 

Even after removing some types of checks that are clearly unrelated to new firearm purchases, background checks still serve only as a rough approximation because every state has different background checks laws and accounting practices. (These were the best-selling guns last year.)

The states that reported the largest increases in background checks this March compared to the same period in 2022 include both states that tend to rank relatively low in gun sales per capita (approximated by checks per capita) each month and those that rank among the highest. Hawaii, even after reporting a 31.9% increase in background checks in April compared to the same month in 2022, still ranks dead last in background checks per person, at 1.3 per 1,000 state residents, compared to a national rate of 5.1 per 1,000 people. 

At the other end of the list, there are multiple states like Oregon, which already had relatively high background checks, and the big increase in checks pushed the states higher up the ranks in apparent gun sales per capita. Oregon’s neighbors, Idaho and Washington, each reported double-digit percentage point increases in gun sales and now, with Oregon, rank as the three U.S. states with the most firearm background checks per capita. (These are the states where the most people bought guns in April.)

Click here to see 16 states where gun sales are still increasing.

Click here to read our detailed methodology.

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