The surge in gun sales during the pandemic has waned in 2022. Unadjusted firearm background checks – a rough proxy of gun sales – surged from 28.4 million in 2019 to 39.7 million in 2020 (and 38.9 million in 2021) with the pandemic and civil unrest cited as contributing to the rise. Checks, however, declined to pre-pandemic levels at 31.6 million in 2022.
So far in 2023, background checks have been relatively flat nationwide, increasing by just 0.3% compared to the first four months of 2022, though they increased by a much larger 0.7% in April 2023 compared to April 2022. Still, gun sales – as approximated by background checks – have declined in some states in April. (See also 24 states where gun related crimes are surging.)
To identify the states where gun sales are decreasing fastest, 24/7 Wall St. used data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, looking at the states with the largest percentage decrease in adjusted-firearm background checks from April 2022 to April 2023. To reach a more accurate approximation of gun sales, we excluded 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 background checks still serve only as a rough approximation of gun sales.
Although no clear pattern was evident in the states with the largest decrease in gun sales, four of the states where gun sales declined the most are in the South: Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas. Other states in the top 10 represent every part of the country.
The state with the biggest decrease in gun sales is Arizona. Firearms background checks tumbled from 58,767 in April 2022 to 41,320 in April 2023, a 29.1% drop of 17,437 checks, by far the most of any state in both categories. Background checks in every state in the top 10 decreased by at least 9.7%from April 2022 to April 2023.
One state of note in the top 10 is tiny Connecticut. The Nutmeg State had the third-biggest percentage decline in firearms background checks at 26.1%, and the sixth-largest drop in total background checks at 6,034.
In 18 of the 20 states on the list, the most common type of firearm check was for a handgun. The exceptions were for long guns in New York and South Dakota. (Here are the countries Americans buy the most handguns from.)
Click here to see the states where gun sales are decreasing the most.
Click here to read our detailed methodology.
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