SALT LAKE CITY — In the last decade, Utah gun sales rates per 1,000 adults have increased by 80.4% — more than any other state in the U.S., according to a study conducted by security solutions company Security.org.
The study — “Gun Country: Where in the U.S. Are Guns Most Popular?” — is meant to understand regional differences in gun sales, gun crime and gun deaths by using data from the FBI’s criminal background check system.
“We wanted to look at where in the U.S. all three of these things were most common and see what connections and correlations can be drawn between those states,” the study stated.
Overall, most states saw an increase in gun sales.
In states surrounding Utah, Wyoming saw a 9.3% increase, and Idaho increased 26.4% in gun sales over the last decade. Meanwhile, Colorado decreased 10.3% and Nevada declined 22.2%.
New Hampshire ranked below Utah as its gun sales increased by 72.1%.
The highest jump occurred in the District of Columbia, which saw a 643.2% increase in gun sales. Despite a significant rise in gun sales over the last decade, D.C. still ranked the lowest when it came to 2018 firearm purchases. Utah ranked 16th in estimated gun sales per 1,000 adults in 2018.
While Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Sports Shooting Council, questioned the data gathering process of the study because it didn’t take into account the number of concealed carry permits, he attributed the possible increase of gun sales in the state to an increase in population and the popularity of concealed carry permits.
“In the last decade, Utah has seen a huge population jump, a lot of that coming from states like California,” he said, adding that Californians face various “roadblocks” when obtaining firearms.
Unlike most other states that allow only residents to obtain concealed carry permits, he said Utah allows nonresidents to apply for concealed carry permits as well.
“We are one of the most permissive states when it comes to firearm possession, ownership and use in the nation,” he said.
Regionally, gun sales are highest in the West. According to the study, the West has the lowest gun-homicide rate in the nation but gun suicides in the West are the highest in the nation.
“We have a very high suicide rate,” Aposhian said, which he noted is an issue that affects the veteran community.
A recent University of Utah study found that 95% of military suicides involved a personally owned firearm and examined how safe firearm storage practices could prevent suicides in military personnel by 50%.
Ermiya Fanaeian, a gun violence prevention organizer based in Utah, found the state’s gun sales numbers troubling.
“When we increase gun sales, it also increases access to guns in people’s homes,” she said.
She said more guns could also increase young people’s access to guns, who might not know how to responsibly handle a firearm.
Fanaeian, who serves on Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s Commission Against Gun Violence, said she recently met with Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, who plans to reintroduce a “red flag” law bill this upcoming legislative session.
Even though gun sales have increased over the last decade, Fanaeian believes gun violence prevention supporters have increased.
“We are gaining so many more people who are wanting to be part of that conversation,” she said.
Division over gun rights was one of the reasons why the University of Utah centered its 36th Annual Jefferson B. Fordham Debate last month on whether or not the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms should be limited to the home.
At the time of the debate, moderator and U. law professor RonNell Andersen Jones called it a “very difficult issue” with “no easy answers.”
“No doubt, guns and gun control are emotionally charged issues,” the study stated. “But we hope that a sober analysis of the data surrounding the gun-related topics we’ve explored can help add to the discourse around guns.”