Special Report

Gun Sales Are Plummeting in These 20 States


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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