Americans bought 5.5 million guns to start 2024: See where Pennsylvania ranks (2024)

Pennsylvania was among the top states for gun purchases in both 2023 and the first quarter of this year, but the commonwealth’s large population may help explain the ranking.

Last month, the U.S. surgeon general declared gun violence a public health crisis, issuing a 39-page advisory on initiatives to prevent firearm deaths. The advisory said the rate of firearm-related deaths “reached a near three-decade high in 2021."

About a third of Americans say they personally own a gun, Pew Research data shows. That statistic reflects the deep-rooted culture of gun ownership in the U.S. Another report found that in the first four months of 2024, nearly 5.5. million firearms were purchased in the country.

Americans bought 5.5 million guns to start 2024: See where Pennsylvania ranks (1)

Pennsylvania ranked fourth highest in the country for guns sold in 2023 (841,523) and for guns sold between January and April 2024 (284,082). Pennsylvania, with its 2023 census estimated population of over 12.9 million, is the fifth most populated state in the nation.

Texas, which has the second highest population at 30.5 million people, had the most gun sales last year (1.3 million) and the most guns bought through April (448,034).

Data from the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was analyzed by SafeHomes.org, a safety product review site, to determine which states had the largest ownership of recently purchased firearms.

Which states sold the most guns in 2023?

The states that sold the most guns last year is largely reflected by its population size. The top three states that sold the most guns in 2023 are also the most populated.

According to SafeHomes' analysis of NICS data, these are the states with the most firearms sales in 2023:

  • Texas: 1,347,589
  • Florida: 1,316,471
  • California: 1,043,421
  • Pennsylvania: 841,523
  • Tennessee: 633,015
  • Ohio: 583,314
  • Virginia: 581,698
  • Michigan: 555,650
  • Missouri: 520,488
  • Illinois: 504,452

Which states sold the most guns, adjusted for population?

When adjusted for population, Pennsylvania’s gun purchases go from one of the largest to almost the median, according to the SafeHomes’ data.

Pennsylvania had a rate of 859 gun purchases per 10,000 residents over the age of 21 in 2023.

Montana, Wyoming and Alaska had the three highest population-based rates, respectively, with all three states having more than 1,500 guns purchased per 10,000 residents.

"These states have strong hunting traditions fostered by rural lifestyles and less rigid gun control laws," SafeHomes managing editor Rob Gabriele said. "The pro-gun cultures and the need for self-defense in such remote areas, which abound in predators that could harm livestock, may also contribute to higher gun ownership and sales."

The following states had the highest rate of gun sales, adjusted for population.

  • Montana: 1,586 sold per 10,000 residents aged 21+
  • Wyoming: 1,523 sold per 10,000 residents aged 21+
  • Alaska: 1,514 sold per 10,000 residents aged 21+
  • Oregon: 1,372 sold per 10,000 residents aged 21+
  • Alabama: 1,302 sold per 10,000 residents aged 21+
  • New Hampshire: 1,252 sold per 10,000 residents aged 21+
  • Tennessee: 1,207 sold per 10,000 residents aged 21+
  • West Virginia: 1,205 sold per 10,000 residents aged 21+
  • North Dakota: 1,194 sold per 10,000 residents aged 21+
  • Idaho: 1,149 sold per 10,000 residents aged 21+

Nationwide legal gun sales declined slightly last year

Nationwide gun sales decreased in 2023, Gabriele said. About 16.7 million firearms were sold in the U.S. last year, the report said, down 4% from 2022.

Pennsylvania’s gun purchases dropped by 7% in 2023.

Florida, which passed a law to allow permitless concealed carry in March 2023, saw gun sales go up 1% last year. The Sunshine State was one of only four states to see an increase, with 1,316,471 estimated sales in 2023, according to the report. But that was nothing compared to North Carolina, Gabriele said, which saw a 112% increase in gun sales after their pistol permit law was eliminated in March 2023 by the GOP-led legislature, overriding the Democratic governor's veto.

Gun violence reaches an all-time-high

According to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, more than 48,000 people died by gun violence in 2022 — that's an increase of 16,000 deaths compared to 2010. At the same time, firearm-related suicides have increased by 20%, including a “staggering increase” in such deaths among young people, the advisory noted.

Murthy said gun violence demands a public health approach rather than the polarizing political response.

Gun violence became the leading cause of death in children and U.S. adults are worried that they or a loved one will become a victim, according to Reuters. More than half of U.S. adults said that they or a family member experienced a firearm-related incident, a 2023 report from KFF found.

Chris Ullery is the Philadelphia Hub Data Reporter for the USA Today Network. Reach him at cullery@couriertimes.com or find him on Twitter at @ulleryatinell.

Americans bought 5.5 million guns to start 2024: See where Pennsylvania ranks (2024)

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