The US can feel as divided about firearm ownership as it is varying in the number of firearms per state. Wisevoter crunched the data, and these are the states with the greatest number of registered firearms per 1,000 residents.
Wyoming has the highest number of registered firearms per capita, according to Wisevoter. There are 245.8 registered weapons per 1,000 people on the vast western plains. From a firearm rate perspective, that puts Wyoming in second place after Montana.
2: West Virginia
The Mountain State has 92.8 registered firearms per capita. Hunting is common in West Virginia, with over 200,000 hunters seeking out white-tailed deer each season. This may help explain the state’s high firearm rate.
3: South Dakota
Another state with a high number of registered firearms per capita is South Dakota. The Mount Rushmore State has 72.2 firearms per 1,000 people.
4: New Mexico
There are 58.1 registered firearms per capita in New Mexico. The Land of Enchantment has relatively lenient laws around them and also had the third-highest firearm fatality rate in 2021. Despite 58.1 registered firearms per 1,000 residents being a high number, New Mexico ranks in 36th place for the rate of registered firearms per capita.
5: New Hampshire
New Hampshire has 52.1 firearms per capita, putting it in 5th place. However, firearm fatalities are also very low in this state. According to Gifford, New Hampshire has the seventh-lowest firearm fatality rate in the U.S.
There are 49 registered firearms per 1,000 people in Virginia. Recent laws passed in the Old Dominion are making it harder to purchase and own a weapon, but overall, Virginia is still firearm-friendly.
Arkansas has 44.3 firearms per capita and one of the highest firearm fatality rates in the country. They also have some of the most lenient laws, requiring no background checks, waiting periods, or capacity restrictions.
According to Wisevoter, Idaho residents own many more firearms than Americans in most other states, with 40.2 firearms registered per capita. Over the past several years, laws in Idaho have become more lenient towards firearm owners. For example, in 2018, lawmakers lowered the age of ownership to 18 from 21.
9: North Dakota
There are 40 firearms per capita in North Dakota, and the Flickertail State has virtually no restrictions on firearm ownership. Weapons owners need not pass a background check, obtain a license, or get through a waiting period. North Dakota is one of the rare states that rank number nine for both the number of firearms and the registered firearm rate per 1,000 residents.
Alabama may “only” have 38.7 firearms per 1,000 citizens, but that’s still a high number compared to most of the U.S. The Cotton State has some of the most lenient firearm laws in the country and also has the fourth-highest firearm fatality rate. Alabama is also known for supplying weapons to other states with stricter laws in place.
Known for its rugged wilderness, it may not be a surprise that Alaska has 38.5 firearms per 1,000 citizens. This state values self-sufficiency, and many Alaskans arm themselves for hunting purposes as well as self-defense.
There are 37.9 registered firearms per 1,000 people in Nevada. The Silver State has permissive weapon laws and a culture that esteems personal liberties.
Arizona has 35.6 firearms per 1,000 people. There are few laws regulating firearms in the Copper State, but the number of registered weapons has significantly decreased since 1980.
Home to several firearm manufacturers, Texas has 34.1 firearms per 1,000 citizens. In recent years, the Lone Star State has made attempts to increase firearm permissions. State legislators passed a law that allows citizens to carry a handgun in public without a permit in 2021.
The firearm ownership rate in Montana is 65.7%, higher than any other state. However, the number of registered weapons per 1,000 citizens in the Big Sky Country is only 33.2. When analyzing that number from a registered firearm rate per capita, Montana ranks number one.
Louisiana has 32.9 firearms per 1,000 citizens. It also ranks second in the country for the number of firearm deaths at 26.2 per 100,000 citizens each year. The Pelican State has a strong hunting culture as well as especially lenient firearm regulations.
In Georgia, there are 28.2 firearms for every 1,000 citizens. Gun owners in the Peach State can conceal carry without a permit and purchase ammunition with relative ease. State law also forbids local jurisdictions from enacting firearm laws that are more restrictive than the state legal code.
There are 27.4 total firearms per 1,000 citizens in Mississippi. Ranking first amongst the states for firearm fatalities, Mississippi has few laws that restrict firearm ownership.
Pro-firearm culture is strong in Pennsylvania, where many citizens enjoy hunting and fishing. There are 26.9 firearms per 1,000 citizens in the state and relatively few regulations on firearm ownership.
Home to over 35 million acres of farmland and a rich hunting culture, many Oklahoma residents view firearms as essential tools. There are 25.9 firearms per 1,000 citizens in the state and limited regulations on ownership.
As one of the fastest-growing states in the nation, Colorado continues to enact firearm restrictions, including waiting periods and concealed carry permits. The Centennial State has 25.7 firearms per 1,000 residents.
Second Amendment advocacy is an integral part of Kentucky culture. There are 24.1 firearms per 1,000 state citizens and few restrictions surrounding their possession. Kentucky ranks twelfth in the nation for registered firearm rates.
With 23.8 firearms for every 1,000 residents, Florida has the lowest number of weapons up to this point, especially given its permissive laws. The Sunshine State is home to a significant number of retirees. Though older Americans are more likely to own a firearm, many long-term care and assisted living facilities do not allow them.
There are 23.8 firearms for every 1,000 Kansas residents. The Sunflower State allows concealed carry without a permit and does not require background checks for private sales. The lenient firearm laws reflect a culture that values hunting and recreational shooting.
Many Indiana residents are avid hunters and recreational shooters, which helps explain the permissive firearm laws in the state. With 23.1 firearms per 1,000 people, Indiana citizens can carry a handgun openly or concealed without a permit.
Despite a liberal-leaning demographic who are often pro-firearm restrictions, Oregon has a relatively high number of firearms per capita, with 23 registered weapons per 1,000 people. The Pacific Northwest state has a thriving hunting scene, and many participate in recreational shooting.
27: South Carolina
South Carolina has 23 firearms for every 1,000 citizens. Weapon laws in Palmetto State are lenient, allowing residents to carry handguns without a permit, either openly or concealed.
Strict firearm laws in Minnesota keep firearm ownership relatively low. There are 22.7 firearms per every 1,000 citizens in the state, but the overall ownership rate is low. Purchasing a weapon in the Land of 10,000 lakes requires a background check and, in many cases, a permit.
Maryland has 22.1 firearms for every 1,000 citizens. Like Minnesota, the percentage of people who own a firearm is relatively low. Maryland is proximal to several states with permissive firearm laws, making it relatively easy to import a weapon, though its own laws are on the stricter side.
With 22 firearms per 1,000 residents, it’s clear that many homes in Nebraska have firearms. The Cornhusker State is very rural, and many cite needing firearms for protection.
Known for deer and other big game hunting, it’s not surprising that Tennesee has more firearms per capita than the national average. There are 21.7 guns for every 1,000 people. Laws in the Volunteer State are lenient, making it easy for many adults to purchase and possess a weapon.
32: North Carolina
There are few restrictions on firearm purchases and no required waiting period in North Carolina. The Tar Heel state has 21.1 firearms for every 1,000 people. That ranks it in thirty-fourth place for the overall registered firearm rate.
There are 20.8 firearms per 1,000 people in Connecticut. Strict laws, including a ban on assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, may encourage a low ownership rate, but those who own firearms often own more than one.
Missouri has a long history of Second Amendment advocacy and a strong hunting culture. With few firearm laws, the Show-me State has 18.4 firearms for every 1,000 people.
Consistently one of the top states for Whitetail Deer hunting, many people in Ohio own firearms. There are 17.7 weapons for every 1,000 residents.
Iowa has 17 firearms per 1,000 citizens. At the same time, Iowa’s firearm laws are somewhat lax. As of 2021, firearm owners don’t need a concealed carry permit, even within city limits.
Wisconsin has strict firearm laws and a robust hunting tradition. The Badger State requires a waiting period and background check to purchase a weapon and has 16.3 firearms per 1,000 people.
Firearm restrictions in Maine are stringent, but much of the population is dedicated to hunting. However, the number of firearms in the Pine Tree state is on the lower end at 15.6 per 1,000 people. That places Maine in 16th place in the nation for the registered firearm rate.
With a unique blend of Second Amendment advocacy and liberal politics, Wisevoter shows Vermont has 14.6 firearms per 1,000 people. Hunting is a deep-seated activity in the Green Mountain State, and firearm restrictions are limited.
Some of the most stringent regulations on firearm ownership come from Illinois, including a law that requires owners to carry a separate firearm identification card. The Prarie State has 11.4 weapons per 1,000 people. However, it also ranks 27th in the U.S. for firearm deaths.
Michigan has a low registered firearm rate of 10.9 firearms per 1,000 people. However, the firearm fatality rate in the Wolverine State is on the high side at 14.6 for every 100,000 citizens. Laws in the state ban certain ammunition types but allow assault-style rifles.
The Golden State has 10.4 firearms for every 1,000 people and a firearm fatality rate of only 8.5 for every 100,000 citizens. California’s firearm laws are some of the most stringent in the nation and include a complete ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
There are 6.5 registered firearms per 1,000 Massachusetts residents. The Bay State has strict firearm restrictions and ranks 49th in the nation for the number of firearm fatalities.
Hawaii puts tight limits on firearm ownership and has only 6.4 firearms for every 1,000 residents. Those who wish to purchase a weapon in the Aloha State must pass a background check and obtain a permit.
Rigorous firearm laws in Delaware likely keep weapon ownership low. There are 6.1 firearms per 1,000 people in the state. Concealed weapons require a permit in the Diamond State, and assault weapons are banned.
46: New York
New York has 4.6 registered firearms for every 1,000 residents. The low rate is likely due to laws that make it difficult to own certain weapons. Handgun owners must obtain a license, and there’s a complete ban on assault-style rifles.
47: Rhode Island
Legislation in Rhode Island states all firearm owners must obtain a permit and certain weapon types are completely prohibited. Tight regulation helps explain the low number of firearms per capita and low firearm fatality rate. There are 4.5 firearms per 1,000 Rhode Island residents and 5.1 firearm fatalities per 100,000 people.
There are 3.1 firearms in Utah per 1,000 residents. However, the Beehive State has few restrictions on purchasing or owning a firearm. The firearm fatality rate in Utah is relatively high, given the low number of weapons at 13.6 per 100,000 citizens.
Washington has 1.2 firearms for every 1,000 citizens and 10.9 firearm fatalities for every 100,000 people. The Evergreen State puts tight regulations on firearm ownership and purchase but also has a strong hunting culture.
50: New Jersey
New Jersey has the lowest number of firearms per 1,000 residents in the country, at 1.1 firearms per capita. It also ranks in fiftieth place for the registered firearm rate. Strict laws, including permit and background check requirements, make owning a weapon harder in the Garden State. New Jersey only has five firearm fatalities per 100,000 people.
Explaining Firearms Per Capita
States on this list are ranked using firearms per capita rather than by firearm ownership rate. Firearms per capita provide the number of firearms in a population as a per-person rate. The firearm ownership rate looks at the percentage of firearm owners in a state.
The measurement used will affect the rankings significantly. For example, one person could own several guns, raising the firearms per capita without affecting the firearm ownership rate. This helps explain why Montana has the highest firearm ownership rate but doesn’t make the top ten for firearms per capita.
Wild, Wild West
According to Wisevoter, the number of firearms per 1,000 people is highest in Western and Southern states. Laxer laws and a prevailing favorable attitude towards the Second Amendment could be contributing factors.
When analyzing firearm ownership in the states above, it’s important to note that these numbers only account for registered firearms. Some jurisdictions don’t require registration, especially if the firearm is inherited or gifted, which means the actual number could be much higher.
Doesn’t Mean More Violent
More registered firearms per capita doesn’t always mean the state is more violent. States like New Hampshire prove that point by making this list while also having a very low firearm fatality rate.
Sometimes, more populous states like California and Illinois that deal with violence in their cities have higher firearm fatality rates despite strict laws that keep ownership low. Nevertheless, most of the states on this list show that firearm violence and firearms per capita are often tied.
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