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06.28.10

The Most Armed States

The Arizona shooting is sparking new debate over gun-control laws. The Daily Beast crunched the numbers to determine which states pack the most guns, and which sport the least.

After Jared Lee Loughner opened fire outside a Tucson supermarket with a semiautomatic weapon he bought legally, proponents and adversaries of gun control are speaking out. Republican politicians like Rep. Mike Lee and Senator Rand Paul have defended our current gun laws and Rep. Caroline McCarthy is prepping new gun-control legislation.

To see which states may soon see more restrictions and which may be challenged to loosen current stipulations, The Daily Beast decided to rank the state of arms of the states.

View Our Rankings of the Top 20 Most Armed States

The Supreme Court’s ruling in June that an individual’s right to bear arms, as set out by the Second Amendment, applies to state and local gun-control laws, and gives federal judges the power to nix weapons rules that they feel violate the freedom to keep and carry firearms. There is no federal agency or clearinghouse that monitors the sale or ownership of guns.

But based on background checks performed by the FBI, there were more than 14 million gun-purchasing transactions in 2009—10 percent more than in 2008. Of course, a person buying three guns in a single transaction is vetted by a single background check, so the volume of background checks does not illustrate the total number of guns purchased, or the total number of people who bought a gun. Still, the statistics on background checks provide the most accurate window into the localities where the firearm industry is flourishing.

Those statistics show a country divided. If you want see how a state votes, it seems, just check out its gun ownership: All 10 of the most armed states voted for John McCain in 2008. All 10 of the least armed (including the District of Columbia) voted for Barack Obama.

For our rankings, we considered state data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System for the last 18 months. We divided the number of background checks by each state’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2009 estimates.

One stipulation: States are not completely consistent in reporting of NICS data. Some states use the system for background checks on purchases on the secondary market and others do not. As well, Kentucky implemented monthly NICS checks on concealed weapons, which has inflated its numbers.

To See the Full List, Click Here

1, Kentucky
Population:4,314,113
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents (Dec. 2008 – May 2010): 134,028

2, Utah
Population:2,784,572
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 30,315

3, Montana
Population:974,989
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 25,745

4, Wyoming
Population:544,270
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 22,827

5, Alaska
Population:698,473
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 22,273

6, West Virginia
Population:1,819,777
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 21,455

7, South Dakota
Population:812,383
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 19,062

8, North Dakota
Population:646,844
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 17,829

9, Arkansas
Population:2,889,450
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 17,483

10, Alabama
Population:4,708,708
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 16,860

11, Tennessee

Population: 6,296,254
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 16,684

12, Oklahoma
Population: 3,687,050
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 15,801

13, Idaho
Population: 1,545,801
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 15,764

14, Colorado
Population: 5,024,748
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 15,086

15, Missouri
Population: 5,987,580
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 14,712

16, New Hampshire
Population: 1,324,575
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 14,522

17, Mississippi
Population: 2,951,996
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 14,165

18, Illinois
Population: 12,910,409
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 13,879

19, Connecticut
Population: 3,518,288
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 13,783

20, New Mexico
Population: 2,009,671
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 13,408

21, Louisiana
Population: 4,492,076
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 13,329

22, Minnesota
Population: 5,266,214
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 13,285

23, Kansas
Population: 2,818,747
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 12,516

24, Washington
Population: 6,664,195
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 12,508

25, Pennsylvania
Population: 12,604,767
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 12,449

26, Oregon
Population: 3,825,657
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 12,059

27, Indiana
Population: 6,423,113
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 11,614

28, South Carolina
Population: 4,561,242
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 11,578

29, Maine
Population: 1,318,301
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 11,528

30, Virginia
Population: 7,882,590
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 10,134

31, Iowa
Population: 3,007,856
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 10,127

32, Nevada
Population: 2,643,085
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 10,115

33, Texas
Population: 24,782,302
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 9,936

34, North Carolina
Population: 9,380,884
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 9,411

35, Vermont
Population: 621,760
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 9,366

36, Georgia
Population: 9,829,211
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 9,200

37, Michigan
Population: 9,969,727
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 9,030

38, Wisconsin
Population: 5,654,774
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 8,534

39, Ohio
Population: 11,542,645
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 8,491

40, Nebraska
Population: 1,796,619
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 8,081

41, Arizona
Population: 6,595,778
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 7,954

42, Florida
Population: 18,537,969
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 7,510

43, Delaware
Population: 885,122
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 5,636

44, California
Population: 36,961,664
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 5,444

45, Maryland
Population: 5,699,478
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 4,040

46, Massachusetts
Population: 6,593,587
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 3,796

47, Rhode Island
Population: 1,053,209
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 3,504

48, New York
Population: 19,541,453
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 3,047

49, Hawaii
Population: 1,295,178
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 2,031

50, New Jersey
Population: 8,707,739
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents: 1,536

51, Washington, D.C.
Population:
599,657
NICS background checks per 100,000 residents:
155