After several years during which U.S. gun sales rose, capped by a 2020 surge blamed mostly on the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest, figures started to level in 2021. They are currently dropping sharply, according to FBI data. Gun sales, estimated by background checks, declined over 10% year over year in September to 2,226,389. Total 2021 sales may drop below the 2020 annual figure.
For the first three quarters of 2021, gun sales reached 30,467,508. That compared to 28,626,509 for the same period last year. However, fourth quarter 2020 gun sales were strong and, based on current trends, are unlikely to be matched this October, November and December. These are the states with the best and worst gun laws.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation tracks background checks 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 350 million checks that have been processed since 1998, there have only been 2 million denials. Therefore, the data is the best proxy for U.S. gun sales available.
Despite what could be a drop this year, gun sales have increased most years since 1999. Annual 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.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed firearm registrations in every state for the first nine months of 2021 from the FBI’s NICS. Though background checks and sales are not equal, the data is widely used as the best available proxy for gun sales. The state with the most gun sales in September was Kentucky at 370,706. The state accounted for 17% of national sales, though it has only 1.3% of the population. These are the states with the most gun violence.
Here are total sales by state or territory for the first nine months of this year
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