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Smith & Wesson’s downward adjustment of its earnings outlook piqued the curiosity of the ink-stained wretches at So they put an intern to work combing through the FBI’s NICS reporting and compiled this map showing background checks per 100 people by state in 2014 through July. The results are largely unsurprising. First, throw out Kentucky as their deep purpleness is due to the fact that the state runs monthly checks on all concealed carriers. For some reason. And no one here will be surprised to learn that the states with the lowest NICS checks are . . .

New Jersey, Hawaii, New York, Rhode Island and Maryland. That rogue’s gallery of civilian disarmament does everything in their power to make gun ownership by their citizens as difficult, inconvenient and expensive as they can. The states at the top (again, discounting the Bluegrass State) are North Carolina, Alabama, Montana, West Virginia and Alaska. Just like the bottom of the scale, no jaw-droppers there.

But one glaring anomaly assaults the eye as you survey the long, majestic gun belt that runs in an arc from the southeastern seaboard, west across flyover country, then north through Utah and Idaho — Nebraska. Business Insider doesn’t list the Cornhusker State’s specific statistic (and I’m not wading though the FBI site to get it), but as an 0-2 category state, they’re clearly an outlier here in God’s country. That pale, disinterested blotch in a sea of gunophiles stands out like a goiter would on Sophia Vergara’s neck.

According to eBay’s data, Nebraskans are more interested in strapping on the feed bag than, well, anything else. Are their food-addled brains too sated by seratonin to have much interest in anything ballistic? Not to go all Thomas Frank or anything, but what the hell is wrong with Nebraska?

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    • I agree with many of you that this data is wrong in some way. I think this article needs to be updated. Go to any of our Cabelas on a weekend and it is packed from open to close with people making gun purchases. The only thing I could think of is that we don’t require background checks for person to person sales and I’d guess that makes up a good chunk of our gun buying public. I also think that in Nebraska that we have always been a firearm friendly state that many firearms get passed from generation to generation resulting in people not needing to go out and buy new. Just about all of my friends has a bolt action or shotgun that dad, mom, grandpa or grandma has passed on to them. If anything, I’d say we are fairly well armed.

  1. We all lost our guns in a terrible boating accident. Er. Um. farming accident. There is no water to speak of in nebraska.

  2. Lots of guns already owned, all they need to buy is ammo? They just trade the guns around between each other, private sales need no NICS.

    • That’s an interesting point. Different markets, for whatever historical, legal, economic, cultural reasons, are going to have different market saturation points. I read once not too long ago, an exec from one of the big manufacturers remarked that their greatest competition is often themselves.

      What he meant was that firearms tend to last so long, that they can change ownership repeatedly throughout their decades-long useful lives, and in so doing serve as a substitute to some extent for new firearms purchases. I’m not an expert on any of it, and I’m not conducting a massive study or anything to determine the interactions of all the variables, but on the surface, it sounds plausible to me.

  3. Remember that this is per capita data and Omaha and Lincoln, NE are pretty much anti-gun communities. I lived there once and would never go back. I chose to make South Dakota my home for a third time. I have never tried Wyoming, Montana, or Idaho yet. Maybe we’ll like it better there.

    • Someone should tell the gangbangers that Omaha is anti gun. I swear there is a drive by shooting reported every single night of the week by the local networks. And usually someone dies as a result. Sound men not included.

    • Yeah, I think you called that – the two big cities tend to outweigh the rural areas and mess up the statistics. It is a bit amazing to see Nebraska so low, what with the Cabela’s HQ in Sidney, and two more stores in the state (Omaha and Kearney).

  4. Perhaps Nebraska’s firearms dealers are simply giving the bird to the federal government, and selling directly to people they know, without a background check.

    Nah, too much to hope for.

  5. I know that Nebraska requires a permit to purchase a handgun.. Not sure if that would drive down NCIS checks. They may also waive the NCIS check for cc holders?

    • That’s what I was going to point out. I can’t speak for Nebraska, but here in Iowa you need a permit to purchase or a weapons carry permit to purchase a handgun. You go through NICS when you apply and then you don’t for the duration of the permit. Purchase permits are good for a year and weapons carry permits are good for 5.

    • Yes, a background check is not required on every purchase for permit holders.

      Also, unfortunately, Nebraska has a fairly low number of CC permit holders, given the relatively moderate regulation and gun count.

      Iowa was listed as better than Nebraska in a (horribly misleading) ranking by civilian disarmament proponents, meaning more regulations (and of course also happens to have a lower homicide rate). However, Iowa has far more concealed permit holders than Nebraska. Naturally, Iowa’s likely higher rate of concealed carry (which is likely to reduce crime) counted minimally or not at all in this ranking, where high numbers of fees, paperwork, wait times, limitations for specific people (things that make a relatively small difference) earned Iowa a higher (worse) score.

      Lots of gunny buys doesn’t necessarily make a place gunny.

  6. I believe when you purchase a firearm in Nebraska all you have to do is show your CCW permit. No call in. No NICS record then.

  7. Directly from the Nebraska State Patrol website: “A handgun purchase permit is required by Nebraska Revised Statutes § 69-2403 for purchases of handguns in Nebraska.”

    You undergo a BG check to get the permit and the permit is good for three years. As long as you have that permit OR a CCW, you do not have to undergo a BG check for every handgun purchase. Thus, one BG check every 3 years or 5 years for CCW.

  8. Part of it may be that a Nebraska CHP (Concealed Handgun Permit) acts as a “purchase card.” I don’t believe a separate NCIS check is needed for CHP holders buying from an FFL. Still, could be a data glitch.

  9. Good to see that my fellow (by adoption) Nutmeggers are still buying whatever guns we’re still permitted to purchase.

    • If I did the math right, assuming the middle of the range (5) for CT, we have bought about 150,000 guns in the first half of the year.

      No wonder so many new gun shops are opening up!

  10. A lot of states either don’t use NICS or they have exemptions for permit holders (carry/purchase/possession).

    The map is most likely very misleading because of that.

  11. Iowa is the same as Nebraska. NCIS check when the “permit to purchase” is submitted, then buy all you want. Plus our Permit to Carry Weapons is good for 5 years and the same checks needed. This would really mess up the data used in this map.

    • I agree, our permit system means most get to buy as many as they want for 3-5 years depending on which permit they hold. We only have to do a NICS check for non-permit holders who buy a long rifle (no pistol purchase without a permit). Although it’s been a down summer we’ve seen many new gun store opening up and we are seeing robust NFA action as we are an almost anything goes state. Fear not, we are a deep purple state–just a well camouflaged one!

  12. Dan,
    I’m sorry to correct your grammar, especially since it opens me up to abuse for whatever I write incorrectly, but I’m compelled. “Peaked” and “peeked” are commonly misused in place of “piqued”. Interest aroused is interest piqued.

  13. Not many checks to run when everyone has a CHP or Purchase permit that can be used in lieu of the check.

    But then again…other than in the small towns NE is pretty gun anemic as far as “excitement” goes.

  14. Holy crap, look at Illinois! All right here’s my crackpot theory about why our numbers are so high. Ten years ago most people (in Illinois) didn’t even seem to know that they could own a gun, now the media keeps on talking about how easy it is to get a gun. Maybe that’s back firing on them just a little bit. All these people are thinking “If all these gangbangers have a gun, why don’t I?” Come to think of it, pretty much every time I have been to the range in the last year there has been about 2 people in their 20s for every one in their 30s and higher.

    • Keep in mind, the Illinois Concealed Carry Law went into effect this year. And if you want to carry and you’re not already a gun owner, you first need a FOID card (NCIS check), then you can buy your Glock (NCIS check), then you can take your training class and pay your $150 for your Concealed Carry License (NCIS check).

      In other words, that recently enacted legislation is skewing the numbers this year in Illinois.

      I didn’t own a single handgun until this year. But since January I’ve bought two, my wife bought one, and we both applied for our CCL. That’s five NCIS checks right there, only because we both already had FOID cards (and the year isn’t over yet).

  15. I’m a little taken aback that KY would run continuous background checks like that. Yearly I could stomach (though not condone), but MONTHLY? I thought the Bluegrass Commonwealth had more sense.

  16. I’m happy to see that deep dark blue covering my state. Also happy to say that I turned in my CCW application to the Durham Co. Sheriffs office two days ago.

    • Two days? I went to my Sheriff’s office when it opened at 9:00 AM. Filled out the form. The lady took me to a back-room for the photograph after she did some typing. After the photo I asked how long it would take to get my permit. She ignored my question while a machine printed the photo. She put the photo in a plastic jacket and handed me my permit. I was out by 9:15 AM. It shouldn’t have taken that long; she was a few minutes late to work that day.

      • I only wish things moved that quickly here in NC. I’m supposed to wait 60 days to call them and find out if they’ve received my medical information (I have none) from three different sources. If they have, then they begin the process of background check and all the other jazz. That will take another 45 to 90 days.

        Puts me in mind of the whole “a right delayed, is a right denied” thing. I am NOT happy about this.

  17. I don’t know what the issue is?? We have at least 4 militia’s in eastern Nebraska alone sporting 100’s of people… There are lot’s of guns here, we just don’t go all out buying and trading our guns like baseball cards or wife’s… We decide on what we want, research the best for the cash, buy and keep our guns and pass them on to family members when we die… Hell, how many guns with ammo you gonna go humping through state lands or private lands to go hunting with??? Unless your having a big meat day it would be 2, the same two that we used for the last 20 years… So, us younger people have many already, why do we need more??? Ammo, that’s are gig, we have Hornady and lots and lots of re loaders… Hell, Cabelas started here and has a couple through the state…

    I can’t say anything about those who moved here following Paypal and eBay… West coaster that learned here in this state we keep that status qua… We are an open carry state and for the exception of Omaha, it’s not a big deal to open carry, Omaha’s old bottom feeder, eerrrr mayor was a gun grabber, but he didn’t last… So, if I sound angry about that comment it’s because I am, research and learn before you open your freaking mouth or keyboard… We just stay quiet and keep our head down because we have work to do…

  18. It could be something like the skewed numbers for Georgia. I bought 12 guns last year and none of them went through NICS. My carry permit was my background check.

  19. Nebraska allows people to bypass NICS if they have a firearms purchase card or a concealed carry permit, so almost no one goes through NICS. It’s as simple as that.

  20. By looking at the CCW and hand gun purchase permit laws in NB it looks a lot like MI. If you have a CCW you do not have to do the NICS check and if you have a purchase permit (Valad for 3 years) You do not need to do a NICS check. I know in Michigan I have bought 5 guns in the last 2 years and not had a NICS call done because my CCW is accepted as a NICS check. Just some basic search can tell you a lot.

  21. As a proud Nebraskan I have to ask, what is wrong with your research abilities Dan?

    It doesn’t take much to determine that Nebraska uses a permit system.

  22. Permit instead of NICS–great, we can do that in Texas too– but now I’m bugged by the fact that you have to get a permit just to BUY a handgun. Is there any other product that the state requires you to get a state-issued permit just to buy?

    • Honestly, I would be bothered by it if it was not only like $5-10. Ill pay that price to not have to deal with a BG check everytime I go to my FFL dealer or other gun store.

  23. Nebraska is very much a pro gun state. The mayor of Omaha has applied for a concealed carry permit. As stated by others you can use your ccw (5 year) or handgun purchase permit (3 years) instead of a nics check. This would cut down on the amount of call ins but does not mean Nebraskans aren’t buying guns. I know of one retailer in a large city that sells around 10,000 firearms a year.

  24. Florida uses NICS for all firearms purchases, even if you have a CWFL or other qualifying piece of identification that says you can carry a gun. There’s no carve-out for permit holders. NICS each time. Florida CWFL acts as a “VIP Club” card though – you don’t have to wait to take your new gun home. Purchase (or transfer in) – NICS – Pay – smell ya later. Wait time in Florida is 3 days without a CWFL.

    A lot of the colors are light on this map probably due to the downturn in the firearms market though. There’s no panic at the moment. Dan, pull this data again this time two years from now. The light purples will be dark.

  25. Pretty amazing what a Constitutional Loving State has on the ‘documented’ books. Legal, open carry state folks. Welcome to the last of the ‘Family based / Christian raised / neighborly’ states in the nation.

  26. I have a feeling that a lot of people in Nebraska, like here in Missouri (especially older folks) just carry a gun without any type of permit.

  27. The problem is that almost the entire population of Nebraska is in a metropolitan area. Everyone literally lives in Omaha, so even though it is a rural state, it’s population is highly slanted toward the urbanite/progressive side of the world.

  28. Nebraska is a partial POC state – not all background checks go through NICS. Google “POC NICS” for the FBI’s list of Point of Contact states.

  29. Maybe the question should be “What the hell is wrong with TTAG when they don’t bother to do any research before asking a dumb question?”. Just as everyone has already schooled you. We don’t do background checks on long guns. One background check gets you a purchase permit that is good for five years and an unlimited number of handguns, OR anyone with a CHP can do the same.

    Asking “What’s up with Nebraska?” would be fine. All the added insulting commentary just makes you look like an Alpha Hotel. If you are going to call the website “The Truth About Guns”, maybe you should put a little effort into that “truth” part.


  30. One other thing. What the HELL is wrong with Dan Zimmerman? There’s not a damn thing wrong with Nebraska. Plus, your data is for January to July. It’s too damn cold and windy for half that time. The second half of that time we are working our asses off. Next up is the handgun permit and no need for BG check every purchase.

  31. Wow, great job insulting all the gun lovers in Nebraska. We love our guns here. Others have already explained why our numbers are probably showing low and I can verify what they said is true. I have purchased multiple guns in the last year and had a background check on none of them. How about some research before using an inaccurate model as an excuse to insult people.

  32. As others have said, Both the Nebraska firearms purchase permit ($5, good for 3 years, required for purchase of a handgun) and the NE CHP ($150, good for 5 years) exempt buyers from needing to undergo a NICS check at the point of sale.

  33. Looks like The Boys From Neb. Get a case of panties bunched over a form of information showed so a question was asked? I figured they were just to busy packing corn.

    • This website claims to be journalism. In journalism it is never appropriate to use baseless insults. But hey, maybe that is just my ‘food-addled brain’ not thinking straight.

  34. Maryland is low because we bought all our guns in 2013 before the law changed so we are cash stripped. I know I bought several years worth of guns because of it so now I need more mags and ammo.

    Luckily I have escaped to Florida so I don’t have to deal with the BS anymore.

  35. I’m proud to be a Virginian, this is a “most issue” state, when I applied it took all of 19 days. I’m also proud to say this is a very low crime state as well.

  36. Neither the chart nor the website indicate the time frame or the year these numbers were collected.

    Wyoming does not require any resident (who can “legally” own a gun) to have a “permit” for CC. There is no “permit” required to purchase a handgun, and no effective limit or barrier to private sales.

    As with so many of these statistic things, the context matters… as do dates and time frames.

  37. This is the best comparison you could come up with?

    “stands out like a goiter would on Sophia Vergara’s neck.”

    Good job TTAG.

    Way to feed the sexist, mysoginistic, OFWG gun-owner stereotype.


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