This Is the State Where People Bought the Most Guns

U.S. gun sales in the first four months of 2021 surged 31% to 15,966,389. This makes it among the largest figures since sales started to be recorded in 1998.

The increase is part of a trend. Gun sales in the United States rose 40% last year to 39,695,315. That represents the high water mark in annual gun sales since the current record-keeping system went into effect. Increases by state in April and for the first four months varied substantially, as has been the case for years.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation tracks gun sales and publishes a list of how many are handled as part of its National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Each month, the figures are reported by state. Nearly everyone put through this system qualifies as a buyer. People who are excluded usually have criminal records. Of the more than 310 million checks that have been done since 1998, there have only been 1.5 million denials. Therefore, the data is the best proxy for U.S. gun sales available.

Growing civil unrest may have prompted people to buy guns for personal and family protection, many social scientists have posited, although this remains a matter of debate. Another theory is that chaos brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is a major cause. A new UC Davis School of Medicine study about fear of violence reports: “The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated persistent structural, economic, and social inequities in the conditions that contribute to violence and its consequences.”

Who bought these guns? CBS News pointed out that over 5 million people were first-time gun buyers last year. CNN reported a sharp rise in sales to Black Americans and women. “Sales to women are also up 40% through September when compared with the same period last year,” the news network pointed out.

The increases in April and first four months should not be taken as unusual, nor should the rise in gun sales from 2019 to 2020 be viewed as an anomaly. The number of gun sales has increased most years since 1999. Sales first topped 25 million in 2016, 20 million in 2013, 15 million in 2011 and 10 million in 2006. In 1999, the first full year the FBI kept data, sales totaled 9,138,123.

The state with the most gun sales through the first four months was Illinois at 4,287,494. The state has only 4% of the population but accounted for 27% of gun sales for the period.

These are the number of guns sold by state in the first four months of 2021:

State/TerritoryTotal
Alabama376,018
Alaska34,933
Arizona227,679
Arkansas110,087
California524,243
Colorado246,211
Connecticut106,588
Delaware27,447
District of Columbia4,081
Florida670,846
Georgia340,465
Guam1,372
Hawaii6,138
Idaho110,596
Illinois4,287,494
Indiana851,583
Iowa121,811
Kansas91,226
Kentucky1,169,179
Louisiana150,983
Maine48,778
Mariana Islands89
Maryland111,365
Massachusetts104,502
Michigan406,159
Minnesota364,282
Mississippi124,055
Missouri257,027
Montana63,355
Nebraska38,037
Nevada74,995
New Hampshire63,694
New Jersey98,121
New Mexico77,793
New York176,683
North Carolina323,580
North Dakota31,490
Ohio348,396
Oklahoma164,245
Oregon175,907
Pennsylvania561,411
Puerto Rico20,923
Rhode Island17,778
South Carolina192,306
South Dakota43,725
Tennessee328,112
Texas756,770
Utah422,644
Vermont20,826
Virginia258,004
Virgin Islands690
Washington278,314
West Virginia92,488
Wisconsin275,379
Wyoming32,857

Click here to see every state ranked by gun sales.


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