The Gun Industry Is Most Powerful In These 15 States

To learn about any issue in American life, it’s always a good idea to follow the money. For example, it makes perfect sense that billionaires behind the most toxic industries rank among the country’s biggest political donors.

A new report from WalletHub reveals important financial data about the gun industry. To come with a list of states most dependent on firearms, researchers highlighted:

  • Which states have the most jobs in the gun industry
  • Where you’ll find the most gun owners
  • The politicians who receive the most from gun-rights and gun-control groups

Other factors, including where gun laws are loosest, also have weight in the rankings. Here are the 15 states where the gun industry is the most powerful.

15. South Carolina

rows of guns in the UK

Palmetto State residents love their guns. | Scott Barbour/Getty Images.

If you’re talking about gun prevalence, few states top South Carolina. Palmetto State residents rank among the elite in gun ownership, annual sales, Google searches, and ads for buying or selling weapons.

South Carolina also ranks 21st in gun industry jobs. FN America in Columbia is just one example of a manufacturer in business here.

Next: Tennessee’s high number of gun owners and annual sales pushed the state into the top 15.

14. Tennessee

Convention goers look at old west handguns at the A. Uberti booth

People look at guns at the 2015 NRA Annual Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.| Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Interestingly, you won’t find Tennessee among the top 25 for donations of gun-lobby groups to politicians. However, you will find the state with the second-highest rating for gun owners and new-firearm sales.

Opportunities in manufacturing, sales, and advertising guns (22nd) also helped pushed Tennessee among the top gun states.

Next: You’ll find guns coming up in most West Virginia elections.

13. West Virginia

Sen. Joe Manchin

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has an “A” rating from the NRA. | Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

When you scan West Virginia’s place in gun politics (No. 15) and gun prevalence (No. 8), it’s no surprise to find the state on this list. Few states rank above it in gun ownership rates, and even the state’s Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, holds an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.

Next: The gun business is booming in Missouri.

12. Missouri

Kalashnikov assault rifles

An assault rifle | Denisk999/ Getty Images

Overall, Missouri ranks 12th in gun industry activity, which includes jobs as well as taxes paid by businesses and age restrictions for owning firearms. While you must be 21 to buy a handgun from a licensed dealer, anyone over 18 can buy a rifle and ammunition.

Actually, Missouri laws even allow for minors to own guns. Adults can legally give or sell a rifle to residents under 18. You can also own a fully automatic weapon in Missouri with the right paperwork.

Next: If you live in Alabama, you’re never far from a gun owner.

11. Alabama

Birmingham, Alabama, USA

Falling gun sales could hurt Alabama’s economy. | SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

If you’re talking about gun prevalence, Alabama (No. 6) has few peers. Only slightly lower scores in firearms industry (17th) and gun politics (18th) kept the state out of the top 10. Were gun sales to continue falling under Trump, Alabama will be among the states whose economy would suffer.

Next: Gun issues dominate the political scene in North Dakota. 

10. North Dakota

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

Senator Heidi Heitkamp gets an “A” grade from the NRA.| Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

The situation in North Dakota is fairly common in America. Even though the state ranks 20th in gun prevalence (ownership, sales, and secondhand market), it placed fourth for gun politics.

That means you’re likely to find every politician here taking money from the gun lobby. Case in point: North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp holds an “A” rating from the NRA.

Next: Lots of gun sales and lots of campaign contributions make Oklahoma dependent on the gun industry.

9. Oklahoma

The National Rifle Association(NRA) seal

The NRA gives a lot of money to politicians in Oklahoma. | Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

You won’t find firearms manufacturers powering the economy of Oklahoma like they do in Maine or Nebraska, but in terms of gun ownership (No. 7) only a handful of states top this one. Meanwhile, judging by the level of NRA contributions to politicians here (N0. 6), you’re going to see representatives vote on whatever bill the gun lobby pushes.

Next: One of America’s most corrupt states happens to be among the most dependent on the gun industry.

8. Kansas

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent fires an H&K P2000 handgun

Kansas gets a lot from the gun industry. | John Moore/Getty Images

Whatever you do, don’t manage your finances like Kansas officials run the state government. Sweeping tax cuts have left the treasury without money to fund education and other essential services in 2018.

Meanwhile, Kansas ranked seventh among the most corrupt states in America in 2017. Even with ample firearms and ammunition revenues (No. 8), the state will face money troubles for years to come.

Next: One of this state’s House reps pocketed over $1 million in NRA money.

7. Arkansas

Hon. French Hill, U.S. Representative for Arkansas's

Arkansas politician French Hill has received more than $1 million from the NRA in recent years. | Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

You’ll find a heavy gun manufacturing presence (No. 7) as well as a high percentage of gun owners (No. 11) and political donations (No. 16) in Arkansas. The state definitely leans on the firearm industry as a whole.

Meanwhile, no one in the House of Representatives took more from the NRA than French Hill, an Arkansas Republican who received over $1 million from the lobby in just four years.

Next: This state ranks highest in gun ownership and sales.

6. Kentucky

rifles for sale on a wall with an American flag

Kentucky is first in the nation for gun ownership. | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

In the category of gun prevalence, no state ranked higher than Kentucky. You’ll find more gun owners, higher annual sales, Google searches about guns, and a booming secondhand gun market here.

You’ll even find concealed weapons on college students at public schools in Kentucky, where’s it legal to carry a gun into class. That’s a law the NRA couldn’t manage to get passed in Florida.

Next: America’s most corrupt state is very dependent on the gun industry.

5. Wyoming

The sun hits the tips of the Grand Tetons October 5, 2012 in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

Wyoming ranked second inthe U.S. for political contributions from the gun lobby. | Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

It’s hard to find out what politicians are doing in Wyoming, which ranked as America’s most corrupt state in 2017. However, we do know representatives here are taking a lot of campaign contributions from the gun lobby: The state ranked second on that front in the WalletHub study.

That effort is guaranteed to ease transactions in the gun and ammo manufacturing business, an area in which Wyoming also ranked among the highest (No. 5).

Next: The gun lobby spends big in South Dakota.

4. South Dakota

Sen. John Thune questions a witness during a hearing

Jon Thune | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

No state can top South Dakota when it comes to gun politics. In the WalletHub study, The Mount Rushmore State was No. 1 in the gun politics section.

A quick check of the numbers reveals the state’s three representatives (all Republicans) received $57,000 from the NRA, with Senator Jon Thune leading the pack. Meanwhile, the firearms business’s high rank (No. 5) landed South Dakota among the most dependent on the gun industry.

Next: Alaska has some of the loosest gun laws in America.

3. Alaska

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Guns are common in Alaska. | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Getty Images

You don’t need a permit to carry a gun (openly or concealed) in Alaska, and you can buy as many guns as you like at the same time. You will be hard-pressed to find less restrictive gun laws anywhere in America.

Overall, it’s a state that’s dominated by gun culture, from prevalence (No. 3) to politics (No. 5) and industry presence (No. 6).

Next: Whether you work in the gun industry or are an avid gun owner, Montana has few peers.

2. Montana 

Greg Gianforte

Representative Greg Gianforte received nearly $350,000 from the NRA. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The gun business is a huge part of the Montana economy. Between its number of gun owners, high sales, and number of jobs per 1,000 people, life in The Treasure State is likely to involve a weapon in some form or another.

It certainly spills over into politics. Greg Gianforte, the freshman House rep, pocketed nearly $350,000 in a little over one year from the NRA.

Next: Guns are almost as big as potatoes in Idaho.

1. Idaho

Idaho Falls, Idaho

Idaho is home to 180 gun or ammunition manufacturers. | Danamallard51/iStock/Getty Images

For such a sparsely populated state, Idaho sure has a lot of gun manufacturers. In recent years, a license check showed 180 gun or ammunition manufacturers here.

That led to the top ranking in the gun business, and the heavy NRA donations going to Senator Mike Simpson and other Idaho politicians over the years aim to keep it that way. It’s the state that would be most affected by any change in firearms laws.

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