States with the most guns

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.

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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