Pistols for sale in a store.

States where gun sales have increased the most since 2011

Written by:
January 10, 2023
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States where gun sales have increased the most since 2011

Although debates on gun control laws—which differ substantially from one state to another—are weakening as the November 2022 electoral hype fades away, gun sales continue to rise.

According to the number of firearm-related background checks performed by the FBI, Black Friday 2022 was the third-highest day for gun sales ever, surpassing the amounts sold on the same dates in 2020 and 2021. (Note: The data does not directly represent a one-to-one correlation between a firearm background check and sale, as it does not include private gun purchases or instances where a carry permit is as an alternative to the background check.)

In some states, gun control laws are in judicial limbo. In Oregon, voters passed Measure 114 in the November elections. The proposal aimed to end the so-called "Charleston loophole," which allowed buyers to obtain a firearm from a dealer before the background check was complete. It also added the requirement to pass a training course before purchasing a weapon.

Supporters promoted the measure as a way to prevent mass shootings, such as the one that took place in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, in which a shooter with a criminal record killed nine people. His background check was delayed, thus allowing him to purchase the .45-caliber handgun used to perpetrate the crime.

As of Jan. 9, 2023, Measure 114 remains blocked in an Oregon circuit court by a lawsuit that questions its constitutionality. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, firearms do not have to be registered, and gun owners do not need permits to purchase or carry weapons.

In Washington D.C., where firearm-related background checks have skyrocketed in the last decade, permits are not required to buy rifles, shotguns, or handguns. However, background checks are mandatory for all private sales, and gun buyers must register every firearm they acquire.

Illinois, which has one of the most stringent gun regulations in America, leads the nation in background checks, which suggests the state's laws are functioning as designed and, despite that fact, people's desire to arm themselves remains unabated.

With each state in the country addressing the issue of gun ownership and registration in different ways, Stacker consulted data from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to examine which states have seen the most significant increase in firearm-related background checks between 2011 and 2021. The figures taken into consideration are criminal record requests initiated by an officially licensed Federal Firearms Licensee or criminal justice/law enforcement agency before issuing a purchase or transfer permit.

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KatMoy // Shutterstock

#25. Texas

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 202.8%
--- Checks in 2011: 617,597
--- Checks in 2021: 1,870,113
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 1,436,646

A store owner shows a handgun.
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JEWEL SAMAD // Getty Images

#24. Missouri

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 204.2%
--- Checks in 2011: 199,086
--- Checks in 2021: 605,570
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 445,110

Close up of a person holding a gun on sale.
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DmyTo // Shutterstock

#23. Washington

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 207.0%
--- Checks in 2011: 228,935
--- Checks in 2021: 702,930
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 619,603

Students fire AR-15 semi-automatic rifles during a shooting course.
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CHANDAN KHANNA // Getty Images

#22. Mississippi

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 207.5%
--- Checks in 2011: 96,484
--- Checks in 2021: 296,694
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 222,042

Aerial view of a gun show.
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damann // Shutterstock

#21. Oklahoma

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 214.2%
--- Checks in 2011: 121,014
--- Checks in 2021: 380,249
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 295,071

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Showcase of a gun shop with rifles.
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Kryuchka Yaroslav // Shutterstock

#20. Vermont

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 218.9%
--- Checks in 2011: 16,016
--- Checks in 2021: 51,071
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 39,959

Showcase of a gun shop display.
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Yasemin Yurtman Candemir // Shutterstock

#19. Colorado

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 233.3%
--- Checks in 2011: 187,321
--- Checks in 2021: 624,251
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 474,871

Black pistol gun on store countertop.
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Hunter Bliss Images // Shutterstock

#18. New Mexico

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 233.6%
--- Checks in 2011: 55,404
--- Checks in 2021: 184,807
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 146,184

Close up of a display of guns for sale in a store.
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Lutsenko_Oleksandr // Shutterstock

#17. Tennessee

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 252.8%
--- Checks in 2011: 262,331
--- Checks in 2021: 925,496
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 746,690

A gun in the hands of a young person.
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Gagarin Iurii // Shutterstock

#16. Wisconsin

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 255.4%
--- Checks in 2011: 216,797
--- Checks in 2021: 770,432
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 565,119

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Nomad_Soul // Shutterstock

#15. South Carolina

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 266.1%
--- Checks in 2011: 126,627
--- Checks in 2021: 463,562
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 354,870

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Nomad_Soul // Shutterstock

#14. Illinois

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 270.1%
--- Checks in 2011: 694,784
--- Checks in 2021: 2,571,685
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 3,998,754

Person with store owner choosing handgun in gun shop.
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Nomad_Soul // Shutterstock

#13. Georgia

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 271.0%
--- Checks in 2011: 209,268
--- Checks in 2021: 776,297
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 501,896

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Dmitri T // Shutterstock

#12. Oregon

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 285.6%
--- Checks in 2011: 114,368
--- Checks in 2021: 440,999
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 412,741

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Nomad_Soul // Shutterstock

#11. Idaho

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 298.4%
--- Checks in 2011: 66,621
--- Checks in 2021: 265,432
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 205,491

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#10. Rhode Island

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 307.0%
--- Checks in 2011: 8,582
--- Checks in 2021: 34,928
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 24,810

Close up of a person holding a gun in a store.
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Lutsenko_Oleksandr // Shutterstock

#9. Ohio

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 310.5%
--- Checks in 2011: 201,843
--- Checks in 2021: 828,561
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 564,951

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Cass Tippit // Shutterstock

#8. Virginia

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 312.9%
--- Checks in 2011: 155,912
--- Checks in 2021: 643,707
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 498,195

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megaflopp // Shutterstock

#7. Arizona

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 337.0%
--- Checks in 2011: 122,097
--- Checks in 2021: 533,540
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 446,903

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Lutsenko_Oleksandr // Shutterstock

#6. Maryland

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 384.8%
--- Checks in 2011: 54,470
--- Checks in 2021: 264,077
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 278,570

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#5. Alabama

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 464.3%
--- Checks in 2011: 159,840
--- Checks in 2021: 902,047
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 617,962

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Dmitry Markov152 // Shutterstock

#4. Delaware

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 485.3%
--- Checks in 2011: 11,355
--- Checks in 2021: 66,462
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 51,286

Salesperson at a Florida Gun Show.
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YES Market Media // Shutterstock

#3. Florida

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 577.3%
--- Checks in 2011: 241,671
--- Checks in 2021: 1,636,929
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 1,255,284

Gun store sign on exterior of shop.
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Jonathan Weiss // Shutterstock

#2. New Jersey

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 659.9%
--- Checks in 2011: 29,093
--- Checks in 2021: 221,071
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 152,088

Portrait of person in gun shop showing rifle.
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BearFotos // Shutterstock

#1. Washington DC

- Increase in NICS firearm background checks: 62,750.0%
--- Checks in 2011: 20
--- Checks in 2021: 12,570
- Checks so far in 2022 (as of Nov. 30): 14,491

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