States Where Gun Sales are Decreasing the Most

President Joe Biden signed on Tuesday a new executive order intended to increase the likelihood a background check is conducted before the sale of guns in the United States. Though many polls show that the vast majority of Americans support universal background checks, Biden’s order does not go that far but directs the attorney general to make sure gun dealers are complying with existing background check laws. The White House said the order would move “the U.S. as close to universal background checks as possible without additional legislation.” 

Last month, about 2.5 million firearm background checks were conducted in the United States, according to data compiled by the FBI. That figure represents a slight decline compared to January, when 2.6 million checks were conducted but is in line with the number of checks conducted in February 2022. Background checks are often used to approximate the level of gun sales. However, background checks can also be initiated for reasons that are not tied to gun sales, including rentals and pawn shop transactions. (Also see, guns with the most online sales in 2022.)

To identify the states where gun sales are decreasing fastest, 24/7 Wall St. used FBI data from its National Instant Criminal Background Check System, looking at the 20 states with the largest percentage decrease in adjusted-firearm background checks in February 2023 compared to February 2022. To reach a closer approximation of gun sales, we excluded categories of checks such as for 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, because every state has different background checks laws and accounting practices, background checks still serve only as a rough approximation. 

The states with the highest reported decreases in background checks in February compared to the same period in 2022 include both states that tend to rank relatively low each month in checks per capita and those that rank among the highest. 

For example, Alabama, which had the largest decrease in background checks, at 24.0%, had the third most adjusted background checks per capita in February at 9.7 per 1,000 residents. Conversely Delaware, which had the fourth largest decline in background checks, at 15.2%, had the 10th fewest adjusted background checks per capita in February at 4.1 per 1,000 residents. (These are the states where the most people bought guns last month.)

Click here to see the states where gun sales are decreasing the most.

Click here to read our detailed methodology.

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