The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case that could have major implications on gun rights in the United States. The case involves a challenge to the 1994 federal law that prevents those who have committed acts of domestic violence from owning a gun. If the court rules in favor of the plaintiff and overturns the law, it would be the second time the court has had a major impact on gun control in the United States. Last year, it struck down a New York state ban on concealed carrying handguns.
While the judicial branch appears to be set to continue loosening restrictions on gun ownership, there have been some recent wins for gun control advocates at both the executive and legislative branches. This includes the Safer Communities Act passed by Congress last year, and a presidential executive order signed in March intended to expand the incidence of background checks.
Firearm background checks are one of the core gun policy issues. Currently, the federal government only requires background checks before the sale of guns at federally-licensed arms dealers and not private gun shops. Many states have their own additional policies, including that 15 that have a universal background check law, meaning a check is required any time a gun changes hands between private parties. (These are the universal background check laws in every state.)
Regardless of the current climate on gun laws and background check regulations, Americans keep buying guns. 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. Firearm background checks are a rough proxy for gun sales. States are ranked based on the number of gun background checks in June 2023 per 1,000 state residents.
To get closer to an accurate reflection of gun sales, we excluded several categories of criminal background checks, 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.
In June, more than 2 million criminal background checks were conducted. After adjusting for categories that appear to be unrelated to the sale of a gun, the remaining 1.4 million — or about 4.2 checks per 1,000 people nationwide — more accurately reflect the national appetite for new firearms. (Also read: the 22 most popular guns bought online last year.)
After ranking third last in May, Hawaii once again appears to be the state with fewest gun sales per capita. After Hawaii, most of the states with relatively few checks per capita are liberal states in the Northeast or West Coast, including New York, New Jersey, and California. It should be noted that these states all have universal background check laws, making their relatively few checks per capita an even better approximation of gun sales and the lower demand for guns in these states, at least compared to the rest of the country. (Also see: these are the Americans who own the most guns.)
Click here to see the states where the most people bought guns last month.
Click here to see our detailed methodology.
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