Special Report

Gun Sales Are Plummeting in These 20 States

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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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20. Pennsylvania
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -4.9% (-5,002 — 7th largest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 97,151 — 16th most
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 102,153 — 3rd most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 7.5 — 16th most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 7.9 — 12th most
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 12,972,008 — 5th largest

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19. Delaware
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -4.9% (-235 — 8th smallest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 4,556 — 14th fewest
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 4,791 — 4th fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 4.5 — 14th fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 4.7 — 15th fewest
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 1,018,396 — 6th smallest

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18. New Mexico
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -5.3% (-715 — 15th smallest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 12,752 — 23rd most
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 13,467 — 15th fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 6.0 — 23rd most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 6.4 — 24th most
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 2,113,344 — 15th smallest

Source: Spencer Platt / Getty Images News via Getty Images

17. Alaska
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -5.5% (-406 — 12th smallest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 6,912 — 5th most
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 7,318 — 9th fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 9.4 — 5th most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 10.0 — 3rd most
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 733,583 — 3rd smallest

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16. Michigan
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -5.7% (-3,689 — 11th largest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 61,304 — 21st most
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 64,993 — 7th most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 6.1 — 21st most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 6.5 — 23rd most
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 10,034,113 — 10th largest

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15. Wisconsin
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -5.9% (-3,141 — 14th largest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 50,265 — 8th most
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 53,406 — 11th most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 8.5 — 8th most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 9.1 — 7th most
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 5,892,539 — 20th largest

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14. Tennessee
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -6.8% (-4,599 — 9th largest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 62,631 — 7th most
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 67,230 — 5th most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 8.9 — 7th most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 9.5 — 6th most
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 7,051,339 — 15th largest

13. Ohio
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -7.5% (-4,135 — 10th largest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 50,760 — 12th fewest
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 54,895 — 10th most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 4.3 — 12th fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 4.7 — 14th fewest
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 11,756,058 — 7th largest

Source: Kruck20 / iStock via Getty Images

12. Georgia
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -7.9% (-3,527 — 12th largest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 41,267 — 9th fewest
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 44,794 — 15th most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 3.8 — 9th fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 4.1 — 12th fewest
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 10,912,876 — 8th largest

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11. Texas
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -8.4% (-10,877 — 2nd largest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 118,321 — 10th fewest
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 129,198 — the most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 3.9 — 10th fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 4.3 — 13th fewest
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 30,029,572 — 2nd largest

Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images News via Getty Images

10. Kentucky
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -9.7% (-2,211 — 15th largest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 20,508 — 16th fewest
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 22,719 — 24th fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 4.5 — 16th fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 5.0 — 18th fewest
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 4,512,310 — 25th smallest

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9. New York
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -9.9% (-3,411 — 13th largest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 31,008 — 3rd fewest
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 34,419 — 20th most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 1.6 — 3rd fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 1.7 — 3rd fewest
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Long guns
> 2022 population: 19,677,151 — 4th largest

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock via Getty Images

8. Mississippi
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -10.3% (-1,959 — 16th largest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 17,152 — 25th most
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 19,111 — 23rd fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 5.8 — 25th most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 6.5 — 22nd most
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 2,940,057 — 17th smallest

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7. Indiana
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -11.2% (-4,606 — 8th largest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 36,566 — 22nd fewest
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 41,172 — 19th most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 5.4 — 22nd fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 6.0 — 24th fewest
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 6,833,037 — 17th largest

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6. South Dakota
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -13.2% (-938 — 16th smallest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 6,177 — 18th most
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 7,115 — 8th fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 6.8 — 18th most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 7.8 — 15th most
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Long guns
> 2022 population: 909,824 — 5th smallest

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5. Missouri
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -16.4% (-6,948 — 5th largest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 35,488 — 25th fewest
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 42,436 — 18th most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 5.7 — 25th fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 6.9 — 19th most
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 6,177,957 — 18th largest

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4. Alabama
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -16.8% (-8,645 — 3rd largest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 42,940 — 9th most
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 51,585 — 12th most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 8.5 — 9th most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 10.2 — 2nd most
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 5,074,296 — 24th largest

Source: JOE KLAMAR / AFP via Getty Images

3. Connecticut
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -26.1% (-6,034 — 6th largest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 17,070 — 17th fewest
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 23,104 — 25th fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 4.7 — 17th fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 6.4 — 25th most
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 3,626,205 — 22nd smallest

Source: Kruck20 / iStock via Getty Images

2. South Carolina
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -26.8% (-8,484 — 4th largest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 23,221 — 13th fewest
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 31,705 — 22nd most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 4.4 — 13th fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 6.0 — 23rd fewest
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 5,282,634 — 23rd largest

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1. Arizona
> Change in background checks, Apr 2022-Apr 2023: -29.7% (-17,437 — the largest decrease)
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2023: 41,330 — 24th fewest
> Firearm background checks, Apr 2022: 58,767 — 9th most
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2023: 5.6 — 24th fewest
> Firearm background checks per 1,000 residents, Apr 2022: 8.0 — 11th most
> Most common type of firearm check, Apr 2023: Handguns
> 2022 population: 7,359,197 — 14th largest

Methodology

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  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 that are clearly unrelated to a new firearm purchase, background checks still serve only as a rough approximation, because every state has different background checks laws and accounting practices.

The most glaring example of this is Illinois, which alone accounted for about half of the background checks in the country after excluding the aforementioned categories of checks. Illinois no longer breaks down background checks separately, but did so from July 2016 through July 2021. During the four full years of data, an average of 9.2% of Illinois’s non-private sale or gun-specific permit checks were non-rechecks. We applied that average to the most recent state figures to estimate Illinois’ count. This was done only because Illinois is such a glaring example of inconsistency and because there was historical data to produce an estimate. 

There are likely other states for which the background check figures listed are inflated or underestimated proxies for gun sales. 

Population data came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population and Housing Unit Estimates Program, and are for July of 2022, the most recent data available.

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