States Where the Most People Bought Guns Last Month


California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed gun control amendment to the state constitution was introduced in August into the state legislature. The measure, called the Right to Safety Resolution, would raise the minimum age to buy a gun in the state from 18 to 21, establish a mandatory background check and waiting period for every gun purchase, and ban civilians from possessing assault-style weapons. 

These changes, if passed, will likely suppress gun sales in a state where firearm purchases are already quite uncommon, at least when adjusting for population. In July, there were 2.4 firearm-related per 1,000 state residents in California, the seventh fewest among states. Firearm background checks are the best available approximation of gun sales in the U.S.

To find the states where the most people bought guns last month, 24/7 Wall St. used data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. States are ranked based on the number of gun background checks in July 2023 per 1,000 state residents. 

To get closer to an accurate reflection of gun sales, several categories of criminal background checks were excluded from our calculation, including pawn shop transactions, returns, rentals, and rechecks, which are conducted periodically by some states on existing permit holders. Even after removing these categories, background checks still only serve as a rough approximation of gun sales and are likely an over or underestimation in some states. Across the United States, there were 3.8 checks per 1,000 people in July. (Also read: the company making the most guns in every state.)

California, as a state with relatively few checks per person, is in company with a number of left-leaning states that have stricter gun control legislation in place. Of the eight states receiving a score of “A-” or better from the Gifford Law Centers gun law scorecard (higher scores denote stricter gun policies), six fall among the bottom 10 states for background checks. This is interesting as stricter background check policies imply that more gun sales require a background check, yet these states have among the fewest checks per capita. Perhaps, this is indicative of even lower gun sales in these states compared to states that do not enforce strict checking policies. (Also see: every state’s grade on gun laws.) 

At the other end of the list are a number of very pro-gun states. The seven states with the most checks per capita all receive “F” grades from the Giffords center. Notably, two states that appear to have relatively high gun sales — Oregon and Colorado — have more pro-gun regulation than the others states with a high number of checks per person. Both states have in the past year passed substantial legislation to control firearms, and both are embroiled in legal disputes over the constitutionality of those laws.

Click here to see the states where the most people bought guns last month.

Click here to read our detailed methodology.

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