Background checks blocked 153,000 of the nearly 7.7 million prospective sales of guns last year, and fewer people tried to buy firearms in 2000 than in 1999, the Justice Department reported.
Analysts attributed the decline to a drop in crime, which they said has led Americans to feel safer and less inclined to purchase guns.
Researchers said the decline in applications does not necessarily mean that fewer guns were sold. In some states, people can purchase multiple guns from one application.
Of the 19 states that had complete data, the largest declines were in Indiana (25.8%) and California (24.8%).