Mary Anna Thomas

Concerns Rise as 21 States Experience Sharp Increase in Per Capita Gun Ownership

Gun ownership varies greatly across the United States. In some states, as many as 60% own firearms, while in others, gun ownership dips below 15%. Generally, states with stricter laws regulating guns tend to have fewer residents who own them compared to states with minimal or no gun control measures. We take a look at the 21 states with the highest gun ownership per capita, according to research from ammunition wholesaler Ammo Gun.

Montana

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66.3% of Montana adults live in a household that owns a firearm, although firearm registration isn’t required, so the figures can be higher. Gun ownership is ingrained in Montana’s culture, with hunting, shooting sports, and self-defense being common reasons for owning firearms. 

Wyoming

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Wyoming’s history as a frontier territory has shaped its gun culture, with an emphasis on personal protection. For this reason, Wyoming has some of the most relaxed gun control laws in the United States, and as of 2021, a permit is not required to carry a firearm. 

Alaska

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Hunting for food and recreation is a common practice in Alaska’s vast wilderness, which means over 57% of people in the state own a gun. Some residents also own a gun for personal protection, and while background checks are required for all firearm purchases from licensed dealers, private sales are not subject to these checks. 

Idaho

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A significant portion of Idaho’s population lives in rural areas, where gun ownership for hunting, pest control, and protection against wildlife is more common. This translates to 55% of people in the state living in a home with a gun. There is concern about the high rates of gun violence in Idaho, although a significant portion of gun deaths are suicide related. 

West Virginia

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Over 60% of West Virginia residents own a gun. One of the main reasons is hunting is a popular pastime for many West Virginians, providing food and recreational opportunities. Self-defense is another reason why gun ownership is high, and relaxed gun laws make it easy for most people to buy a gun. 

Arkansas

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According to Pew Center research, 72% of people who own a gun in America say that protection is the main reason. This is the case for Arkansas residents, with over half of the population owning a gun. 

Mississippi

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In Mississippi, 54% of residents live in a home with a gun. From protection, hunting, and recreational shooting, gun culture is ingrained in Mississippi life. The state faces challenges with levels of poor education and poverty, which could be a factor in its high rates of gun violence. 

Alabama

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Over half (55.5%) of adults who live in a household own a firearm, with 26.4 gun deaths per 100,000 people. Like many of the states on this list, Alabama has a long history of gun culture, and they have a motto that reads, “We dare defend our rights.”

South Dakota

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As of 2023, a permit is not required to carry a concealed handgun for residents over 21 years old, which means that there are currently 55.6% of residents with a gun in their homes. 

North Dakota

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Like neighboring South Dakota, North Dakota has a history of gun ownership, whether it be for self-defense reasons, hunting, or leisure. Research by Rand shows that with strict background checks in place, gun violence is reduced by 15%. As North Dakota does not do background checks on private sales, their gun violence rate is higher than many states. 

Oklahoma

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Oklahoma’s gun culture is ingrained in self-reliance and the need for protection, perhaps a result of its history as a frontier state. Residents see guns as a symbol of self-sufficiency and preparedness, which is why 54.9% own at least one firearm. 

Kentucky

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Kentucky has a strong gun culture, a large rural population, and relatively lax gun control laws. Around 52.5% of residents own at least one gun, and the state allows concealed firearms to be carried openly. 

Louisiana

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Louisiana has one of the highest gun death rates in the US. This emphasizes the importance of gun safety education and responsible gun ownership practices for the 52.3% of households owning at least one firearm. 

Tennessee

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Over 46.9% of Tennessee residents have at least one gun at home. Tennessee’s state government has recently enacted laws that make obtaining and carrying firearms easier. This has contributed to the already high gun ownership rate. 

Oregon

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Oregon’s gun ownership currently lies at 41.1%. While most residents use their guns responsibly, there are approximately 587 deaths per year in the state. Homicide deaths account for 14% of these gun deaths, and suicide 84%.

Vermont

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Despite stricter gun control laws compared to most states, Vermont maintains a high gun ownership rate. Studies suggest that over 50.3% of Vermont households likely own at least one firearm, ranking it among the top 15 states in ownership.

South Carolina

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Some South Carolinians view firearms as essential tools for protection against potential threats or wildlife encounters, and others own guns for self-protection. For these reasons, 55.8% of people in the state own a firearm.

Georgia

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In Georgia, you do not need a permit to purchase a handgun from a private seller and don’t have to register firearms in the state. With relaxed laws, Georgia has a firearm ownership rate of 42.2%.

Kansas

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With owning a gun in Kansas, there are concerns among some about the state’s high gun crime rates. Kansas has recently weakened some gun control laws. In 2021, a law was passed allowing 18-20-year-olds to carry concealed handguns without a permit. This applies to college and university campuses as well, which is a controversial decision given that 12 children die each day as a result of guns

Missouri

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Nearly half of Missouri adults live in households with firearms, and it has a gun death rate of 23.2 per 100,000 people. As of January 2017, a permit is not required to carry a concealed handgun for residents over 19 years old, and open carry is also legal without a permit.

Nevada

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Nevada is a permitless carry state for concealed handguns for residents over 21, and nearly 40% of people in the state own at least one firearm. Nevada’s gun culture is somewhat mixed. While hunting and shooting sports are popular in some areas, the state’s urban centers have different views on the right to own a gun. 

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