Utah ranks No. 1 for growth in gun sales, report says

(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) Stuart Wallin, owner of Get Some Guns and Ammo helps customer with advice on a handgun at the flagship store in Murray on Jan. 8, 2017. Utah’s rate of gun sales has grown more quickly than any other state during the past decade.

Utah’s rate of gun sales has grown more quickly than any other state during the past decade — a time when mass shootings have created hot debate over firearms control and ownership nationally.

Utah’s rate of gun sales per adult grew by 80.4% between 2009 and 2018, according to a study using FBI background check data by Security.org, a website that helps consumers choose security and safety systems.

Other top states for growth in gun sales rates included New Hampshire, 72.1%; Illinois, 71.2%; and Delaware, 59.3%.

While not a state, the District of Columbia had by far the biggest increase in the nation, more than seven-fold, at 643.2% — but it also had the nation’s lowest gun sales per person, so any increases in sales brought large changes in its growth percentage.

Also, in the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia vs. Heller, the justices struck down D.C.'s total ban of handguns in residents’ homes.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

The state with the biggest drop in its gun sales rate was Alabama, down 42.5%, followed by Nevada, down 22.2%, and Minnesota, down 13.4%.

While Utah’s rate of gun sales grew during the decade, the study said Utah still ranks only No. 16 among the states for its total sales per person in 2018: 82.8 per 100,000 residents.

The states with the highest sales per resident in 2018 were Montana (141.9 per 100,000 people), Alaska (140.1) and South Dakota (121.9).

Areas with the lowest sales per person were the District of Columbia (5.8 per 100,000 people); New Jersey (13.5); and Massachusetts (16.6).

The study, “Gun Country: Where in the U.S. are guns the most popular,” said fewer than one in three Americans report owning a gun.

“Bridging the political divides over guns and gun control could be helped by a deeper understanding of the geographic differences in gun sales, gun crimes and gun deaths,” it said, adding the study sought to look at some of that data.

Regionally, it noted that average gun sales rates are highest in the West by a clear margin — 84.4 per 1,000 adults, 20 points higher than the next highest region, 62.8 per 1,000 in the Midwest.

The study also noted that Western states have considerably higher gun suicide rates than other regions. The West’s gun suicide rate is more than double that of the Northeast (11.1 per 100,000 compared to 5.4). Montana had the highest rate (19.4), followed by Wyoming, Alaska, Idaho, West Virginia and Arkansas.

Utah tied with North Dakota as having the seventh highest rate of suicide by gun.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Last year’s mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla. — and protests here — led Utah officials to vow to study improving school safety and tweaks in gun laws here.

The Legislature this year killed a “red flag” bill to confiscate a peoples’ weapons if a court deems that they pose a danger to themselves or others. President Donald Trump called for red flag laws after shootings this summer in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Gilroy, Calif.

Last year, the state also greenlighted Utahns as young as 18 to get permits to carry concealed weapons, intended especially to allow young women to defend themselves against potential rapists or attackers on college campuses.

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