How Heavily Armed Is Your State? Let’s Look At Some Numbers (And Provide Some Nuance)

Which states are the most heavily armed? That’s a question that gun owners and gun-grabbers have been debating for years.

CBS News ran a study on numbers of firearms in each state as of the year 2013. Some of the states that the survey came up with give a rather odd glimpse into gun ownership in the states.

They did note that the data gleaned was largely from NFA Transfer and Registration records, so the number of guns that we are talking about here is not one that documents every single rifle, shotgun, and pistol in America. These are numbers of registered firearms. Only a few states require any sort of registration, so that fact skews the results to a large degree, and some may be led to believe that the number of guns Americans own is far less than in reality.

Anyways, here is what CBS published in their results, ranked from 51st to 1st (51 because of the District of Columbia):

51. New York
50. Rhode Island
49. Delaware
48. Michigan
47. Massachusetts
46. Hawaii
45. New Jersey
44. Iowa
43. Vermont
42. Mississippi
41. Nebraska
40. California
39. Wisconsin
38. Missouri
37. Washington
36. Maine
35. Illinois
33. (tie) West Virginia
33. (tie) Arizona
31. (tie) North Dakota
31. (tie) Minnesota
30. Florida
29. Kansas
28. North Carolina
25. (tie) Tennessee
25. (tie) Montana
25. (tie) Connecticut
23. (tie) Oregon
23. (tie) Ohio
22. South Dakota
21. South Carolina
20. Colorado
19. Oklahoma
18. Texas
17. Utah
16. Kentucky
15. Indiana
13. (tie) New Hampshire
13. (tie) Georgia
11. (tie) Pennsylvania
11. (tie) Maryland
10. Louisiana
9. Alaska
8. Nevada
7. Alabama
6. Idaho
5. Virginia
4. New Mexico
3. Arkansas
2. District of Columbia
1. Wyoming

Now, let’s provide some nuance here. We won’t look into every state listed, but let’s just take a couple of examples, starting with New York State.

CBS admitted that their survey did not address pistol ownership in the Empire State. Since each handgun legally owned must be registered, that leaves a whole bunch of firearms, an entire class, completely left out of the equation. What the survey for NYS collected had to have been registered rifles and shotguns (fully automatic, while extremely difficult to obtain legally at the federal level, are entirely illegal in NYS).

But in New York, only New York City requires registration of rifles and shotguns; the rest of the state only requires handgun registration. A total of 64,353 registered firearms was reported. The necessary inference here is that these numbers are only from the City, and do not really reflect the rest of the State. As someone who has frequented the oft-forgotten upstate portion, I can tell you that there are plenty of gun owners there.

Let’s look next at Virginia, which is ranked #5. My home state does not require any registration of rifles, shotguns, or handguns. Only fully automatic firearms, those compliant with federal law, must be registered with Virginia State Police, in addition to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

CBS found that Virginia had 248,939 registered firearms among 8,260,405 people. The inference here is that there are nearly 250,000 fully automatic firearms here in the Commonwealth. The actual number of all firearms, including semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns is probably in the tens of millions, given the strong gun culture here.

Let’s also look at the District of Columbia, which surprisingly was ranked #2. All firearms must be registered in the strictly gun-controlled capitol. Rifles, shotguns, and handguns (which only became legal in 2008 after the District of Columbia vs. Heller decision) must all be registered with the Metro PD.

The number of guns that the Metro PD has a record of stood at 42,89, dispersed among approximately 650,000 residents. That’s a relatively high rate of ownership, but it only appears that way because of the registration requirements.

Then let’s look at Wyoming, ranked #1. Wyoming has no registration for any guns whatsoever. That means the only registered guns here are the ones required to be registered under federal law: fully automatic firearms.

In Wyoming, there are a total of 114,052 registered firearms, and a population of approximately 582,000. That’s a lot of NFA items in just one state, I’ll say that!

Now if a more thorough survey were possible, the actual number of guns in each state would be so much higher. We recently reported on the true number of estimated firearms here in the United States as a whole. While an exact number is simply not attainable, the best estimate out there right now is that there are between 412 and 660 million guns here in the U.S. of A.

Now THAT’S a well-armed society. What do you think about your state’s ranking? Let me know below!

H/T Bearing Arms