America and Its Guns
America is known throughout the world as a country that loves its guns. Beyond that, in the last year or so, since the election of President Obama, sales of guns and ammo have spiked on fears that the new administration would push legislation that would limit the sales of firearms. The administration actually hasn’t acted to limit access to guns, and as a result, the gun boom has faded. Nevertheless, we began to wonder how many guns are sold here and which states sell the most and the least?
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Tracking down statistics about firearm sales can be a tough business. Exact nationwide sales and ownership data isn’t available since there’s no federal gun registry listing all gun buyers and owners, so when MainStreet decided to list the states where the most and least guns are sold, we decided to talk to the FBI. They told us that background check numbers from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System are proportional to gun sales numbers. The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco on Firearms, agreed, saying they provide a close approximation of sales.
We’ll start with the 10 states with the fewest guns sold and following that will be the 10 states with the most guns sold. The figure we prove is the approximate number of guns sold per 100 residents from January to October of this year based on the most recent state population data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the number of background checks (assuming one gun purchase per background check) according to FBI data.
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#10 Least Gun Sales: Florida
Guns per 100 residents: 2.5
Florida has introduced legislation to strengthen gun rights by deregulating guns manufactured in the state, but Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings, along with many state Democrats, is opposed to it. He believes that “stricter punishments, tougher sentencing, and crime prevention, coupled with gun control, are the keys” to addressing crime in the United States. Additionally, a ban on assault weapons in Florida recently expired.
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#9 Least Gun Sales: Wisconsin
Guns per 100 residents: 2.2
This state is covered in peaceful pastures. Nearly half of Wisconsin consists of farmland, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and its top commodity by far is dairy products. Kids under 18 aren’t allowed to posses firearms, except when long guns are being used for hunting or other adult-supervised activities like target shooting, according to the Wisconsin state legislature.
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#7 Least Gun Sales: California
Guns per 100 residents: 1.8
You can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony in California if you keep a loaded firearm in your custody and anyone under 18 years old uses it and causes an injury or death, or carries it in public. Additionally, the State of California office of the Attorney General specifically outlines safety measures for gun owners in the most simple and clear terms that we’ve come across.
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#6 Least Gun Sales: Maryland
Guns per 100 residents: 1.4
Sales may be on the low end now, but in 2005, Maryland had the highest rate of gun-related hospitalizations across the country, at 15.6 cases per 100,000 people, compared with a national average of 9.7 cases, according to the CDC.
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#5 Least Gun Sales: Massachusetts
Guns per 100 residents: 1.3
In Massachusetts, all new firearm license applicants must complete a certified firearms safety course or Basic Hunter Education Course. To stop gun violence in the city of Boston specifically, there’s a government-run program to investigate firearm trafficking and armed career criminals called the The Boston Gun Project. According to Massachusetts law, it’s illegal to give a machine gun to anyone under age 18. While some may be surprised that such a specific law is written, there was a case in which, at a firearms expo, an eight-year-old boy shot himself in the head when handling a 9-millimeter Uzi micro submachine gun.
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#4 Least Gun Sales: Rhode Island
Guns per 100 residents: 1.2
The state of Rhode Island established the country’s first Gun Court in 1994, specifically to prosecute and sentence violent, gun-toting adult criminals. The existence of the organization to begin with intends to the send the message that people who use guns in the state will go to jail. Rhode Island is among the states with the lowest rate of gun deaths, at 4.4 per 100,000 residents.
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#3 Least Gun Sales: New York
Guns per 100 residents: 1.0
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group of mayors from across the country who are for stricter gun laws in their cities. So, despite the fact that hunting is a popular pastime upstate, it’s not too surprising that the state has a lower level of gun sales than most. And through a gun buyback program in the city, in which people could get $200 for turning in guns, no questions asked, the NYPD has taken thousands of guns off the streets.
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#2 Least Gun Sales: New Jersey
Guns per 100 residents: 0.5
New Jersey also has a state gun buyback program which give $150 cash for a handgun, rifle, or shotgun, or $250 for an automatic weapon. Earlier this year, the state’s governor, John Corzine, signed a bill limiting handgun purchases to once every 30 days to prevent firearms trafficking as well as the illegal possession and use of guns.
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Fewest Gun Sales: Washington, DC
Guns per 100 residents: 0.1
Besides those registered before 1976, guns were banned completely among civilians in DC until 2008. Now, while they are allowed, DC law makes it a criminal offense to fire a gun without a written permit from the District of Columbia Chief of Police. Among other criteria, chronic alcoholics and people who have been convicted for a narcotics or dangerous drug offense within the past five years can’t register a gun.
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10th Most Gun Sales: Idaho
Guns per 100 residents: 5.4
Idaho residents don’t have to get a permit to buy or own a rifle, shotgun or handgun. It is, however, against the law to possess or carry one if one is intoxicated or a felon, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, who defends the Second Amendment, or the right to bear arms, has noted that semiautomatic weapons including assault weapons are generally used for “lawful activities like marksmanship competitions, hunting, and target shooting,” according to his Web site.
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#9 in Gun Sales: Arkansas
Guns per 100 residents: 5.9
In Arkansas, the most common guns traced by the ATF are pistols, followed by rifles, shotguns, revolvers and Derringers. Guns in the state came from all over the country, according to the ATF the highest numbers of guns were found in the cities of Batesville, Little Rock, Springville and Fayetteville.
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#8 in Gun Sales: North Dakota
Guns per 100 residents: 6.2
In North Dakota homes where firearms are kept loaded, nearly 76% were not locked away for safety, according to a North Dakota Department of Health survey in 2004, the most recent survey conducted. Two years prior, that number was 60%. In public, guns can only be transported either locked in a closed trunk or other compartment or not loaded at all.
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#7 in Gun Sales: South Dakota
Guns per 100 residents: 6.4
Earlier this year, the South Dakota Senator John Thune expressed disappointment at the defeat of bipartisan legislation to allow citizens to cross state lines with concealed weapons as long as the rules of the host state are followed.
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#6 in Gun Sales: Alaska
Guns per 100 residents: 7.3
If you saw the picture of Sarah Palin hunting from a helicopter, it may not be such a surprise that Alaskans like their guns. The Alaska House recently passed legislation that grants greater gun rights to its citizens. Guns made in Alaska, including homemade ones, may be exempt from federal gun regulations that cover interstate commerce. In 2006, the state of Alaska was tied for third place with Mississippi in a list of states with the highest firearm death rates, at 16.4 per 100,000 compared with a national average of 10.3.
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#4 in Gun Sales: Montana
Guns per 100 residents: 8.8
States are passing more and more lax gun laws, but Montana was among the first to do so. According to this year’s Montana Firearms Freedom Act, guns, ammunition and accessories made and kept in the state are exempt from federal gun control laws.
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#3 in Gun Sales: West Virginia
Guns per 100 residents: 15.4
While it’s not the top gun-owning state, West Virginia is the top illegal gun exporter according to one report. Guns from the state end up in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio and New York, according to calculations by Mayors Against Illegal Guns using gun trace data from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
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#2 in Gun Sales: Wyoming
Guns per 100 residents: 30.2
Wyoming is a state with one of the highest gun ownership rates in the U.S. and one of the lowest murder rates. In 2007, Wyoming had 16 murders, according to WyomingGunOwners.org. However, according to the University of Wyoming last year, the state has the fifth highest suicide rate, 21.8 suicides per 100,000 people, which is nearly double the national average. Firearms were the leading method.
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Top State for Gun Sales: Kentucky
Guns per 100 residents: 41.8
Not only do Kentucky residents love their guns, they spread their love to surrounding states. Guns from Kentucky have been found in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee and used in violent crimes. Within the state next year, officials will consider new legislation that could strengthen gun rights among its citizens, according to the Lexington Examiner. The new law would exempt any firearms or ammunition made in Kentucky from federal gun laws.
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