California DOJ releases 2022 firearms dashboard portal

The California DOJ recently released new and updated firearms data, available through the OpenJustice Data Platform. The Firearms Dashboard includes data from the past decade on things like dealer records of sales, gun violence restraining orders, concealed weapons permits, assault weapons ownership, and more. There are also a variety of links to supplemental resources, such as the California Firearms Law Summary. The portal shows how many guns were purchased each month and year, and this is also broken down by county, manufacturer, type of transaction (e.g., dealer sale, private party sale, pawn shop), race and age of the purchaser, and more. Similarly, the same breakdowns are available for gun violence restraining orders, assault weapons registrations, concealed weapon licenses, and more.

At first glance, there are a few interesting findings that stand out. First, when looking at the data from 2012-2021, gun purchases (based on dealer records of sale) were the highest in 2016, with 1,276,153 gun purchases. These numbers were higher than those seen in 2020 and 2021, contrary to popular belief. This was followed by a decrease during the years 2017-2019, before increasing again in 2020. However, the numbers from 2020 were still much lower than 2016, with 1,168,806 guns purchased. Sales continued to decline throughout 2021, with 1,019,915 guns purchased that year.

Across all months from 2012-2021, the month that saw the most sales was December 2016, with 216,287 guns purchased that month. November 2016 saw the second-highest number of sales across all months, with 164,824 guns sold. From 2017-2019, gun sales decreased. In March 2020, gun sales spiked again with 128,086 guns sold that month. This decreased throughout the rest of the year, but sales remained high in comparison with past years (with the exception of 2016). Declines in gun sales continued throughout 2021, with a small spike again in March, when 102,513 guns were purchased.

Every year, the majority of guns were purchased by males aged 30-39. However, the percentage of gun purchases (particularly handguns) made by women has increased in recent years. It’s still unclear whether the percentage increases are large enough to contribute to changes in overall trends, but the finding is interesting nonetheless.

In 2015, women accounted for 10.1% of handgun purchases and 8.2% of total gun purchases. In 2016, at the same time as the initial spike, women accounted for slightly more (11.7%) handgun purchases, though they still only accounted for 8% of total purchases. In 2018, when overall sales were down, women accounted for 9.9% of handgun purchases and 7.9% of overall purchases. In 2019, the percentage of gun purchases made by women increased again, accounting for 15.8% of handgun purchases and 12% of total purchases. In 2020, women again comprised 15.8% of handgun sales and 12% of overall gun sales. By 2021, this declined slightly, with women accounting for 13% of handgun purchases and 10% of overall purchases that year.

The data presented here are descriptive and don’t give much explanation as to why gun sales have ebbed and flowed over the years. However, it does show that gun purchases are again on the decline, despite the 2020 increase. Secondly, it is important to note that the increase in gun sales in 2020 was still not quite as high as the increase seen in 2016. Third, the percentage of firearm purchases made by women increased in 2019, particularly for handguns. Some have speculated that more women are purchasing guns for personal protection, which might explain this pattern. Further research is needed to confirm this, though.