Gun sales in America, as estimated by background checks, jumped at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and remained high until well into 2021. Several days and weeks in that period set all-time records. Total sales were 28,369,750 in 2019 and 39,659315 in 2020. These figures come from the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System -- firearm background checks are often used as a proxy for gun sales.

During the period of the increase, the number of first-time gun buyers jumped. Sales also rose among women and minorities. First-time buyers have accounted for about 20% of new gun sales nationwide in 2020.

Recently, however, gun sales have collapsed, both month to month and year over year. The pace of the decline accelerated in June. June gun sales last year totaled 3,054,726 nationwide. Last month, nationwide gun sales totaled 2,570,608. Compared to the first six months of 2021, there were 6.4 million fewer background checks for the purchase of a firearm, a 28.7% drop.

In New York, gun sales are falling, but at a slower pace the national decline. There were a total of 221,579 FBI firearm background checks in the state in the first half of 2022 compared to 245,023 in the first six months of 2021 -- a 9.6% reduction and the 45th largest decline among states.

Reasons for the slowdown are not as clear as those that explained the surge reported last year. The New York Times reported in May 2021, "While gun sales have been climbing for decades -- they often spike in election years and after high-profile crimes -- Americans have been on an unusual, prolonged buying spree fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, the protests last summer and the fears they both stoked."

 

RankStateChange in sales, 1st half 2021 to 1st half 2022Background checks in 1st half of 2022Background checks in 1st half of 2021
47Delaware-8.4%34,60237,764
46Minnesota-8.6%458,568501,936
45New York-9.6%221,579245,023
44California-10.1%691,718769,591
43Arizona-15.2%273,584322,799
42North Dakota-15.8%35,73242,421
41Tennessee-16.2%420,199501,372
40Montana-17.1%70,55285,087
39Iowa-17.1%127,848154,243
38Maine-17.4%53,78765,116
37Oregon-17.7%201,022244,214
36Alaska-18.0%39,75948,493
35New Mexico-18.4%86,322105,821
34Oklahoma-18.5%180,342221,221
33Pennsylvania-18.9%619,530764,206
32Idaho-19.3%119,491148,011
31Texas-19.4%855,9051,062,416
30Mississippi-19.6%134,642167,522
29Louisiana-19.6%170,127211,706
28Florida-19.8%748,659933,434
27Vermont-19.8%22,19727,678
26Utah-19.9%506,367632,562
25Wisconsin-20.0%316,376395,468
24Massachusetts-20.4%113,472142,631
23Virginia-20.7%278,978351,987
22South Carolina-20.9%209,843265,374
21New Hampshire-21.7%66,01384,286
20Kansas-21.9%95,135121,781
19Colorado-21.9%266,553341,260
18Wyoming-22.2%35,16945,201
17West Virginia-22.6%92,541119,606
16Nebraska-22.6%38,30949,518
15Connecticut-22.9%126,268163,741
14Nevada-23.0%80,710104,884
13Missouri-24.4%261,399345,880
12Maryland-24.5%114,372151,424
11Michigan-26.1%403,011545,526
10South Dakota-26.7%41,77256,973
9Arkansas-27.1%113,314155,524
8Alabama-27.4%374,096515,239
7North Carolina-28.1%316,997440,812
6Ohio-28.7%336,981472,354
5Rhode Island-33.7%15,15722,853
4Georgia-34.6%302,270461,957
3New Jersey-40.1%81,209135,591
2Indiana-45.0%625,3601,137,707
1Illinois-65.9%2,064,4006,050,704