The definitive number of how many firearms are owned by Americans doesn’t exist, but there are a number of metrics available to formulate an estimate that can establish which regions of the country possess the most firearms.
The Small Arms survey from 2020 estimates that there are 393 million firearms legally and illegally owned in the United States. And, with 1 in 3 Americans reporting that they own a gun, the statistics indicate that the majority of gun owners possess more than one gun.
But let’s look at which regions of the country own the most guns. First, on the basis of the gun sale rates per 1,000 adults in each region. The gun sales figures have been extrapolated from the number of background checks in each state. Although background checks don’t totally translate to actual gun sales, they are a very useful and accurate metric in estimating gun sales.
AVERAGE ESTIMATED GUN SALES PER 1,000 IN A REGION 2020
While the West clearly has the edge over other regions from a “per 1,000 adults” standpoint, the more shocking figure is that of the Northeast. Twenty fewer adults per 1,000 in the Northeast purchased firearms than the closest region, the Midwest.
That’s over FORTY fewer than the leading region, the West.
Only one state had a decreased rate of purchase from 2010 to 2020. That state is Nebraska, and their rate featured a very small decline of 3%.
But the West has several states with smaller populations that could skew numbers on a “per 1,000 adults” basis. So, let’s provide more context to the “per 1,000 adults” information with estimated total sales in a given region.
TOTAL ESTIMATED SALES BY REGION 2020
West Virginia 245,056
North Carolina 360,831
South Carolina 401,275
North Dakota 82,574
South Dakota 111,320
New Mexico 203,434
New Hampshire 160,001
New York 433,804
New Jersey 180,309
Rhode Island 54,729
Clearly, the South substantially exceeds the other regions in total firearms purchased. The “per 1,000 adults” leader, the West, is actually only third in total sales. Still, that’s impressive, considering the sparse population in many of that region’s states.
Again, the Northeast trails substantially, and this most likely has less to do with total population (the region is very dense from a population standpoint) than it does with constrictive existing gun laws, and the promise of more restrictive legislation.
So, generally, the West may not purchase as many firearms in total as some other regions, the “per 1,000 adults” purchase rate is higher than any other region.
And, the South purchases more total firearms than any other region, by far. The Northeast trails mightily in both categories. Knowing this information may help you view issues and legislation more broadly when following gun news from all over the nation, as you interpret the popularity or ease of access to firearms in each area.