12.15.12

States With the Most Legal Guns in 2012

In light of the elementary-school mass shooting in Connecticut, gun control is once again up for debate. The Daily Beast runs the numbers to see where guns are most prevalent.

The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary have forced the nation, once again, to engage in a political and cultural debate regarding the prevalence of guns.

The Daily Beast has considered state-by-state data on gun ownership for more than two years. As with previous rankings, the numbers come with serious qualifications. There is a general scarcity of reliable data on gun ownership across the nation and by state. The best, if limited, source of information comes from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is updated monthly based on the number of background checks performed.

For this ranking, we compared the total number of NICS background checks for firearms in the last 12 months to the most recent state population estimates released by the U.S. Census. States were ranked based on the number of background checks per capita.

States aren’t consistent in how they report NICS data. Some states use the system on the secondary market, others do not. As well, it’s important to note that Kentucky requires monthly NICS checks on concealed weapons that causes inflated numbers relative to the other states.

1. Kentucky
Total background checks: 2,542,796
Population: 4,369,356
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 58,196

2. Montana
Total background checks: 127,631
Population: 998,199
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 12,786

3. North Dakota
Total background checks: 81,398
Population: 683,932
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 11,901

4. West Virginia
Total background checks: 216,517
Population: 1,855,364
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 11,670

5. Alaska
Total background checks: 79,992
Population: 722,718
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 11,068

6. Wyoming
Total background checks: 59,756
Population: 568,158
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 10,517

7. South Dakota
Total background checks: 82,218
Population: 824,082
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 9,977

8. Oklahoma
Total background checks: 344,781
Population: 3,791,508
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 9,094

9. New Hampshire
Total background checks: 118,259
Population: 1,318,194
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 8,971

10. Wisconsin
Total background checks: 481,829
Population: 5,711,767
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 8,436

11. Alabama
Total background checks: 402,832
Population: 4,802,740
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 8,388

12. Idaho
Total background checks: 129,265
Population: 1,584,985
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 8,156

13. Missouri
Total background checks: 480,953
Population: 6,010,688
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 8,002

14. Arkansas
Total background checks: 234,086
Population: 2,937,979
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 7,968

15. Illinois
Total background checks: 1,021,440
Population: 12,869,257
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 7,937

16. Minnesota
Total background checks: 419,261
Population: 5,344,861
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 7,844

17. Colorado
Total background checks: 400,919
Population: 5,116,796
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 7,835

18. Utah
Total background checks: 220,503
Population: 2,817,222
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 7,827

19. Tennessee
Total background checks: 489,078
Population: 6,403,353
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 7,638

20. Pennsylvania
Total background checks: 919,749
Population: 12,742,886
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 7,218

21. Washington
Total background checks: 488,808
Population: 6,830,038
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 7,157

22. Mississippi
Total background checks: 210,934
Population: 2,978,512
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 7,082

23. Indiana
Total background checks: 447,513
Population: 6,516,922
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 6,867

24. Kansas
Total background checks: 197,083
Population: 2,871,238
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 6,864

25. Louisiana
Total background checks: 307,022
Population: 4,574,836
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 6,711

26. Maine
Total background checks: 88,115
Population: 1,328,188
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 6,634

27. New Mexico
Total background checks: 135,148
Population: 2,082,224
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 6,491

28. Oregon
Total background checks: 247,719
Population: 3,871,859
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 6,398

29. Connecticut
Total background checks: 226,842
Population: 3,580,709
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 6,335

30. South Carolina
Total background checks: 295,814
Population: 4,679,230
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 6,322

31. Texas
Total background checks: 1,350,658
Population: 25,674,681
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 5,261

32. Vermont
Total background checks: 32,746
Population: 626,431
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 5,227

33. Virginia
Total background checks: 414,466
Population: 8,096,604
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 5,119

34. Ohio
Total background checks: 589,065
Population: 11,544,951
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 5,102

35. Nevada
Total background checks: 137,440
Population: 2,723,322
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 5,047

36. Arizona
Total background checks: 320,495
Population: 6,482,505
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 4,944

37. North Carolina
Total background checks: 464,607
Population: 9,656,401
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 4,811

38. Iowa
Total background checks: 143,345
Population: 3,062,309
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 4,681

39. Georgia
Total background checks: 436,490
Population: 9,815,210
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 4,447

40. Nebraska
Total background checks: 80,099
Population: 1,842,641
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 4,347

41. Michigan
Total background checks: 407,373
Population: 9,876,187
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 4,125

42. Florida
Total background checks: 777,729
Population: 19,057,542
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 4,081

43. Delaware
Total background checks: 28,365
Population: 907,135
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 3,127

44. Massachusetts
Total background checks: 199,774
Population: 6,587,536
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 3,033

45. California
Total background checks: 1,071,390
Population: 37,691,912
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 2,842

46. Maryland
Total background checks: 130,030
Population: 5,828,289
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 2,231

47. Rhode Island
Total background checks: 22,141
Population: 1,051,302
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 2,106

48. New York
Total background checks: 321,511
Population: 19,465,197
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 1,652

49. Hawaii
Total background checks: 16,601
Population: 1,374,810
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 1,208

50. New Jersey
Total background checks: 82,745
Population: 8,821,155
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 938

51. District of Columbia
Total background checks: 421
Population: 617,996
Background checks per 100,000 residents: 68