How Gun Sales Have Changed Over the Past Decade in Each State

Jordan Rosenfeld
·13 min read
©Shutterstock.com / Shutterstock.com
©Shutterstock.com / Shutterstock.com

As the United States grapples with continued gun violence, legislation to improve responsible gun ownership continues to move slowly. GOBankingRates took a look at the how gun sales have changed over the past decade by using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) “Firearm Checks: Month/Year by State” dataset. States like Wisconsin and Delaware have seen the greatest change, while states like Connecticut and Kentucky have seen the lowest change.

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The NICS is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Nearly everyone put through this system qualifies as a buyer. Typically, those who are excluded are those with criminal records. Of the more than 310 million checks that have been done since 1998, there have only been 1.5 million denials. Therefore, the data is the best proxy for U.S. gun sales available. However, it does not reflect private sales between nonlicensed dealers.

Read on to discover how gun sales have changed over the past decade in each state.

Last updated: April 2, 2021

Prattville, Alabama/USA-June 12, 2019: A scenic view of people enjoying Autauga Creek and the Creekwalk area of Prattville during a beautiful golden sunset on a warm summer evening.
Prattville, Alabama/USA-June 12, 2019: A scenic view of people enjoying Autauga Creek and the Creekwalk area of Prattville during a beautiful golden sunset on a warm summer evening.

Alabama

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 308,607

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 1,085,475

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 776,868

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 251.73%

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Anchorage Skyline with a winter reflection.
Anchorage Skyline with a winter reflection.

Alaska

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 65,909

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 98,952

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 33,043

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 50.13%

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Phoenix arizona skyline
Phoenix arizona skyline

Arizona

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 206,050

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 665,458

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 459,408

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 222.96%

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Little Rock, Arkansas, USA skyline on the river at twilight.
Little Rock, Arkansas, USA skyline on the river at twilight.

Arkansas

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 191,448

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 324,741

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 133,293

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 69.62%

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Aerial view of Harbor Drive flanked by highrise hotels and condominiums to the right and the San Diego Convention Center, home to Comic Con, to the left.
Aerial view of Harbor Drive flanked by highrise hotels and condominiums to the right and the San Diego Convention Center, home to Comic Con, to the left.

California

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 816,399

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 1,601,054

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 784,655

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 96.11%

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Denver, USA - People walking on a pedestrianized street in Denver's LoHi district, located near to the city centre.
Denver, USA - People walking on a pedestrianized street in Denver's LoHi district, located near to the city centre.

Colorado

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 300,820

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 680,507

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 379,687

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 126.22%

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Skyline of downtown Hartford, Connecticut from Founders Bridge.
Skyline of downtown Hartford, Connecticut from Founders Bridge.

Connecticut

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 179,595

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 219,227

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 39,632

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 22.07%

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beach in Lewes Delaware at sunset
beach in Lewes Delaware at sunset

Delaware

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 19,240

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 77,057

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 57,817

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 300.50%

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Orlando, Florida, USA downtown cityscape over the highway.
Orlando, Florida, USA downtown cityscape over the highway.

Florida

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 559,347

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 1,912,204

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 1,352,857

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 241.86%

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A view of the Midtown Atlanta skyline from Piedmont Park during the fall season.
A view of the Midtown Atlanta skyline from Piedmont Park during the fall season.

Georgia

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 333,247

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 904,035

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 570,788

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 171.28%

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Waikiki, Hawaii, USA  - January 5, 2014: People jogging, cycling and walking along Waikiki Beach.
Waikiki, Hawaii, USA - January 5, 2014: People jogging, cycling and walking along Waikiki Beach.

Hawaii

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 10,533

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 20,102

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 9,569

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 90.85%

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View of Downtown Boise.
View of Downtown Boise.

Idaho

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 92,031

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 281,284

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 189,253

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 205.64%

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Chicago Cityscape from Chicago River Waterfront at Dusk.
Chicago Cityscape from Chicago River Waterfront at Dusk.

Illinois

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 695,300

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 7,455,065

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 6,759,765

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 972.21%

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Indianapolis Indiana skyline at dusk
Indianapolis Indiana skyline at dusk

Indiana

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 345,650

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 1,935,587

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 1,589,937

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 459.98%

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Morning in Des Moines, Iowa.
Morning in Des Moines, Iowa.

Iowa

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 124,738

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 270,614

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 145,876

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 116.95%

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Topeka Kansas
Topeka Kansas

Kansas

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 144,156

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 249,589

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 105,433

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 73.14%

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Overlooking the Paducah Kentucky Riverfront of the Ohio River.
Overlooking the Paducah Kentucky Riverfront of the Ohio River.

Kentucky

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 2,385,579

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 3,330,462

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 944,883

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 39.61%

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New Orleans Louisiana at sunet with Bridge
New Orleans Louisiana at sunet with Bridge

Louisiana

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 239,204

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 430,537

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 191,333

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 79.99%

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Portland is the largest city in the state of Maine located on a penninsula extended into the scenic Casco Bay.
Portland is the largest city in the state of Maine located on a penninsula extended into the scenic Casco Bay.

Maine

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 65,988

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 137,149

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 71,161

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 107.84%

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Downtown Baltimore at dusk, Maryland.
Downtown Baltimore at dusk, Maryland.

Maryland

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 88,162

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 302,563

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 214,401

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 243.19%

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Faneuil Hall rooftops covered in snow during the winter season in Boston.
Faneuil Hall rooftops covered in snow during the winter season in Boston.

Massachusetts

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 115,904

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 262,583

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 146,679

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 126.55%

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Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA downtown skyline on the Grand River at dusk.
Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA downtown skyline on the Grand River at dusk.

Michigan

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 348,200

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 1,068,511

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 720,311

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 206.87%

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minneapolis,minesota,usa.
minneapolis,minesota,usa.

Minnesota

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 297,390

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 958,391

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 661,001

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 222.27%

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Bridge across the Mississippi at Cape Girardeau,  MO.
Bridge across the Mississippi at Cape Girardeau, MO.

Mississippi

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 169,873

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 366,829

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 196,956

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 115.94%

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St.
St.

Missouri

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 349,672

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 708,184

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 358,512

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 102.53%

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Billings Montana downtown
Billings Montana downtown

Montana

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 101,789

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 172,695

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 71,600

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 70.82%

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Omaha, Nebraska, Urban Skyline, City, Midwest USA.
Omaha, Nebraska, Urban Skyline, City, Midwest USA.

Nebraska

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 58,283

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 104,511

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 46,228

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 79.32%

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Las Vegas, MAR 25, 2020 - Dusk special lockdown cityscape of the famous Strip and New York New York Hotel & Casino.
Las Vegas, MAR 25, 2020 - Dusk special lockdown cityscape of the famous Strip and New York New York Hotel & Casino.

Nevada

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 104,789

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 219,349

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 114,560

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 109.32%

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Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in the U.
Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in the U.

New Hampshire

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 79,940

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 174,662

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 94,722

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 118.49%

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Elizabeth is both the largest city and the county seat of Union County, in New Jersey, United States.
Elizabeth is both the largest city and the county seat of Union County, in New Jersey, United States.

New Jersey

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 50,522

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 177,901

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 127,379

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 252.13%

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Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA downtown cityscape and street at twilight.
Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA downtown cityscape and street at twilight.

New Mexico

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 109,069

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 206,252

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 97,183

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 89.10%

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Syracuse is a city in, and the county seat of, Onondaga County, New York, United States.
Syracuse is a city in, and the county seat of, Onondaga County, New York, United States.

New York

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 241,495

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 507,940

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 266,455

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 110.33%

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Drone Aerial of Downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, NC, USA Skyline.
Drone Aerial of Downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, NC, USA Skyline.

North Carolina

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 331,637

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 890,284

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 558,501

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 168.45%

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Fargo, North Dakota, USA - June 12, 2017: Daytime view of the Fargo Theatre along Broadway N in the Downtown Historic District.
Fargo, North Dakota, USA - June 12, 2017: Daytime view of the Fargo Theatre along Broadway N in the Downtown Historic District.

North Dakota

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 47,083

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 85,465

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 38,382

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 81.52%

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Akron, Ohio, USA downtown skyline at dusk.
Akron, Ohio, USA downtown skyline at dusk.

Ohio

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 393,250

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 976,751

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 583,501

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 148.38%

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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA downtown skyline at twilight.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA downtown skyline at twilight.

Oklahoma

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 233,909

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 470,286

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 236,377

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 79.99%

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St Johns Bridge over the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon with Mt St Helens and Mt Adams in the background.
St Johns Bridge over the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon with Mt St Helens and Mt Adams in the background.

Oregon

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 184,835

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 516,096

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 331,261

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 179.22%

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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA downtown skyline from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge at twilight.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA downtown skyline from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge at twilight.

Pennsylvania

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 626,677

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 1,452,921

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 826,244

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 131.85%

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Crowds gather along Woonasquatucket river in Providence, RI in preparation for the summer series known as WaterFire, which consists of fiery wooden blocks placed along the river during the nighttime.
Crowds gather along Woonasquatucket river in Providence, RI in preparation for the summer series known as WaterFire, which consists of fiery wooden blocks placed along the river during the nighttime.

Rhode Island

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 14,835

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 51,369

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 36,534

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 246.27%

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Charleston South Carolina climate change
Charleston South Carolina climate change

South Carolina

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 201,628

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 530,930

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 329,302

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 163.32%

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West Chester South Dakota aerial view
West Chester South Dakota aerial view

South Dakota

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 63,151

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 115,448

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 52,297

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 82.81%

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Nashville Tennessee downtown skyline at Shelby Street Bridge.
Nashville Tennessee downtown skyline at Shelby Street Bridge.

Tennessee

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 411,024

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 984,760

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 573,736

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 139.59%

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Houston, Texas, USA downtown skyline over the highways at dusk.
Houston, Texas, USA downtown skyline over the highways at dusk.

Texas

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 968,071

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 2,325,281

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 1,357,210

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 140.20%

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Salt Lake City is the capital and the most populous municipality of the U.
Salt Lake City is the capital and the most populous municipality of the U.

Utah

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 553,134

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 1,216,773

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 663,639

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 119.98%

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Montpelier, Vermont Skyline
Montpelier, Vermont Skyline

Vermont

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 24,276

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 57,965

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 33,689

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 138.77%

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Virginia
Virginia

Virginia

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 320,783

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 823,513

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 502,730

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 156.72%

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Seattle Eastside.
Seattle Eastside.

Washington

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 335,342

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 781,471

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 446,129

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 133.04%

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Charleston, West Virginia, USA downtown skyline on the river at dusk.
Charleston, West Virginia, USA downtown skyline on the river at dusk.

West Virginia

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 159,550

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 265,705

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 106,155

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 66.53%

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Reflection of downtown Wausau, Wisconsin in the Wisconsin River in Late summer.
Reflection of downtown Wausau, Wisconsin in the Wisconsin River in Late summer.

Wisconsin

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 194,797

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 731,705

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 536,821

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 275.58%

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Casper is a city in and the county seat of Natrona County, Wyoming, United States.
Casper is a city in and the county seat of Natrona County, Wyoming, United States.

Wyoming

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 47,709

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 91,384

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 43,675

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 91.54%

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The United States Capitoldome background in retro style.
The United States Capitoldome background in retro style.

US Totals

  • 2010 NICS Firearm background checks: 14,310,275

  • 2020 NICS firearm background checks: 39,288,975

  • Number change in NICS firearm background checks: 24,978,700

  • Percent change in NICS firearm background checks: 174.55%

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Methodology: For this piece GOBankingRates used the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) “Firearm Checks: Month/Year by State” dataset to discover how gun sales have changed over the past decade in each state. First, GOBankingRates found each state’s (1) 2010 NICS total firearm background checks and (2) 2020 NICS total firearm background checks. Then, GOBankingRates found for each state (3) the total numerical change in NICS firearm background checks from 2010 to 2020 and (4) the percent change in total NICS firearm background checks from 2010 to 2020. The NICS is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Each month, the figures are reported by state. Nearly everyone put through this system qualifies as a buyer. People who are excluded usually have criminal records. Of the more than 310 million checks that have been done since 1998, there have only been 1.5 million denials. Therefore, the data is the best proxy for U.S. gun sales available. However, only licensed dealers are required to run background checks, so private sales between individuals will not be captured. All data was collected on and up to date as of March 23, 2021.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: How Gun Sales Have Changed Over the Past Decade in Each State