California Handgun Sales in 2001 Drop to All-Time Low

Despite surge in sales after September 11, overall sales down 8.2 percent from 2000

Monday, March 18, 2002
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced that fewer handguns were purchased in California last year, 155,203, than during any year since 1972, when overall totals were first recorded.

From January through December of 2001, a total of 354,202 handgun and long gun (rifles and shotguns) purchases, pending a 10-day waiting period and background check of the buyer, were made by Californians. This represents an 8.2 percent decrease compared to the 386,210 purchases made during 2000.

Handgun sales decreased 23.1 percent, from 201,865 in 2000 to the record low of 155,203. Previously, the fewest handguns sold in a year was 189,481 in 1998.

Long gun sales increased 7.3 percent, from 184,345 in 2000 to 198,999 in 2001. In California, an individual may purchase only one handgun every 30 days, but may purchase multiple long guns at the same time. When multiple long guns are purchased at one time, it is reflected as one purchase.

After September 11, firearm sales in California averaged 9,200 per week for six weeks, compared to about 7,000 per week during the same six-week period in 2000. Prior to September 11, firearms sales averaged about 6,500 per week during 2001.

During 2001, a total of 3,607 sales were denied by the California Department of Justice because the purchaser had criminal convictions, was wanted, was the subject of a restraining order, or had certain mental health history. 2,875 of those denials were based on previous convictions for crimes such as homicides, sex crimes, robbery, arson, and burglary, including 1,355 for assault.

"Keeping guns out of the hands of criminals is a necessary part of an effective crime prevention strategy," Lockyer said. "By blocking the sale of guns to thousands of violent criminals last year we're helping to prevent dangerous crimes and save lives."

Attached are a Dealer's Record of Sales (DROS) worksheet for 2001 that summarizes firearm purchases and denials, and a summary of California firearm purchases and denials since 1972.

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