GitHub Repository

See the link below for the code used to generate the population DataFrame.

The code for the graphics shown below could be found in the link:-

Topic Selection and the Research Questions

Before the 2020 US election, a Washington Post News Article 1 caught my eye. I started to investigate whether the 2020 election has anything to do with firearms sales in the US. Was this year unique in any way due to COVID, or perhaps the sitting president? This got me started in collecting data on US firearms sales and analyzing it.

Source Dataset

The data for this research was obtained from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)2 database maintained by the FBI. The NICS system was launched in 1998 and allowed a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL), an authorized seller in the US, to run a background check on the buyer. Since its inception, NICS has provided approximately 300 million checks and led to 1.5 million denials. The denials may represent only 0.5%, but the data reveals which states are buying most firearms in the US. NICS reports the data for each state monthly in a pdf format. maintains a CSV format of the data from the FBI, which was of great help in the data analysis.3

In addition to the NICS database, the US population data of each state was also used. Information from 4 and jakevdp from GitHub data 5 was used to determine state populations from 2001-2019. The state populations for 2020 was extrapolated from 2018 and 2019 numbers.

Visualization and Data Interpretation

For data analysis, only the data from 2001-2020 was considered. The line plot shown below displays the firearms sales month by month across the US from 2001-2020. Key events explain major spikes in firearms sales. There is an increase in firearms sales around each election, be it 2008, 2012, 2016 or 2020. The US buys firearms mainly in December, consistently year after year.

Annual firearms Sales Events

Non-Normalized Data

The following section’s data is not normalized, and the intention is to show that some states might appear to be buying a lot of firearms, but the states of interest change when accounting for the population.

Total Annual Firearms Sales in US States by Year

The map below shows how total firearms sales have changed in the US by state each year. The color intensity shows the state that has the maximum firearms sales in any time frame.