FBI Reports Rhode Island has Second Highest Increase in the Nation

51,369 NICS Checks in 2020 – 24,336 NICS Checks in 2019

FBI firearm background checks, known as NICS, are used to estimate gun sales by experts; a NICS background check does not equal a gun purchase, but also could be used for the purchase of multiple guns in one transaction. 

Rhode Island’s surge reflects the national surge which began in March 2020 with the onset of COVID-19 in the U.S. and has continued in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests across the nation this summer.

RI Second Only to Michigan in 2020 NICS Checks

State / TerritoryNICS 2020 TotalNICS 2019 TotalIncrease/Decrease
Michigan1,068,511492,171217.10%
Rhode Island51,36924,338211.07%
Maryland302,563148,813203.32%
New Jersey177,90191,257194.95%
District of Columbia11,4855,926193.81%
Arizona665,458372,912178.45%
Nevada219,349128,312170.95%
Wisconsin731,618435,685167.92%
North Carolina890,284530,365167.86%
Georgia904,035539,113167.69%
Delaware77,05746,427165.97%
South Carolina530,930328,221161.76%
Vermont57,96535,843161.72%
Virginia823,513512,766160.60%
Florida1,912,2041,195,539159.94%
Hawaii20,10212,666158.71%
Alabama1,085,475690,084157.30%
Texas2,325,2811,487,212156.35%
New Hampshire174,662112,173155.71%
Tennessee984,760635,313155.00%
Mississippi366,829238,388153.88%
Nebraska104,51168,236153.16%
Ohio976,751638,495152.98%
Louisiana430,537282,264152.53%
Maine137,14990,626151.34%
Illinois7,455,0654,949,570150.62%
Kansas249,589167,010149.45%
Montana172,695115,823149.10%
Wyoming91,38461,291149.10%
Guam3,5722,397149.02%
Iowa270,614182,802148.04%
Utah1,216,773823,270147.80%
Pennsylvania1,452,921987,886147.07%
Arkansas324,741221,344146.71%
Colorado680,507469,535144.93%
Oregon516,096357,700144.28%
New York507,940355,374142.93%
Missouri708,184497,858142.25%
North Dakota85,46560,389141.52%
Minnesota958,391682,356140.45%
South Dakota115,44885,426135.14%
Idaho281,284209,275134.41%
Indiana1,935,5871,450,565133.44%
New Mexico206,252156,829131.51%
Oklahoma470,286360,043130.62%
California1,601,0541,240,632129.05%
West Virginia265,705206,196128.86%
Washington781,471607,170128.71%
Alaska98,95276,923128.64%
Connecticut219,227172,935126.77%
Massachusetts262,583212,316123.68%
Mariana Islands222189117.46%
Puerto Rico31,67128,635110.60%
Virgin Islands1,6391,544106.15%
Kentucky3,330,4624,120,89280.82%

Source: 2020 NICS Firearm Checks - Month Year by State

NICS Were Booming Pre-COVID

As we see in the chart below, firearm background checks in Rhode Island were stable, hovering around 10,000 per year. However, starting in 2008, the year Obama was elected, NICS jumped 21%.

In 2012 they almost doubled over 2008, which was the year that Obama was re-elected and the Sandy Hook Elementary School and Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacres occured.

NICS Background checks - Rhode Island 1999-2020

Post-Sandy Hook, NICS Surges Coincide with High-Profile Mass Shootings

Using our chart above and the list of gun massacres below, we see that in the wake of these shootings background checks spike.

An empirical study published in 2015 documents that demand for guns tend to result from fear of new gun control laws.

High-Profile Mass Shootings 2013-2019
  • 2019 – Virginia Beach, worker at municipal building killed 13, wounded 4
  • 2019 – Dayton, OH, shooter outside of a bar killed 9, wounded 17
  • 2019 – El Paso, TX Walmart, shooter killed 23, wounded 23
  • 2018 – Parkland, FL, former student killed 17, wounded 17 at high school
  • 2018 – Pittsburgh, PA, attack at Tree of Life Synagogue killed 11, wounded 6
  • 2018 – Thousand Oaks, CA, shooter killed 12, wounded 1 at college bar
  • 2018 – Santa Fe, TX, student at Sante Fe High killed 10, wounded 13
  • 2017 – Las Vegas, NV, 58 killed, over 500 injured at outdoor concert
  • 2017 – Sutherland Springs, TX, 25 killed, 20 wounded at church
  • 2016 – Orlando, FL, 49 killed, 53 wounded at Pulse Nightclub
  • 2015 – San Bernardino, CA, 14 killed, 22 wounded at office party
  • 2015 – Charleston, SC, 9 killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church
  • 2013 – Washington, DC, 12 killed, 8 wounded at Navy Yard 
  • 2012 – Newtown, CT, 27 killed, 2 wounded at Sandy Hook Elementary School
  • 2012 – Aurora, CO – 12 killed, 58 wounded at movie theater

More Guns Equals More Gun Deaths

In a 2017 paper researchers provided evidence of an increase in accidental gun deaths in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre.