Gun sales have been down since Donald Trump won the White House, with a 6.1 percent decline in 2018 alone. And while that’s good news to some, it could be a bad sign for state economies relying heavily on the firearms industry. By one estimate, guns contributed more than $52 billion to the U.S. economy and generated over $6.8 billion in federal and state taxes in 2018.
In 2018, gun crime was a high-profile political issue, highlighted by incidents such as the February Parkland, FL school shooting and the October Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. Many states passed new gun laws and gun control groups outspent gun rights groups. 2019 has had its own share of violent incidents as well, such as the Aurora, IL workplace shooting in February. In addition, several new laws have been passed this year, including a federal ban on “bump-stocks.”
In light of the recent developments in the firearms industry and debates on how, if at all, it should be restricted, WalletHub compared the economic impact of guns on each of the 50 states to determine which among them leans most heavily on the gun business, both directly for jobs and political contributions and indirectly through ownership. Read on for our findings, methodology and expert commentary from a panel of researchers.
State Dependency on the Gun Industry
‘Firearms Industry’ Rank
‘Gun Prevalence’ Rank
‘Gun Politics’ Rank
*1 = Most Dependent
As the gun debate continues, we turned to a panel of experts for their thoughts on the following key questions:
- Do we need new gun laws or do we just need to enforce the laws already on the books?
- Are there policies that would successfully reduce gun violence and receive bipartisan support?
- What actions, if any, do you expect the current administration to take with regard to gun ownership?
- Are there any new or promising technologies that may reduce gun deaths?
- More than 90 percent of American households support background checks for all gun purchases. Why do policymakers fail to act?
- Can state or local gun laws be effective? What works?
Ask the Experts
In order to identify the states that most and least depend on the gun industry for economic stability, WalletHub compared the 50 states and across three key dimensions: 1) Firearms Industry, 2) Gun Prevalence and 3) Gun Politics.
We evaluated those dimensions using 17 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the “most gun-industry-dependent” state.
We then determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Firearms Industry – Total Points: 35
- Firearms-Industry Jobs per 10,000 Residents: Double Weight (~6.36 Points)
- Firearms and Ammunition Dealers & Importers per Capita: Full Weight (~3.18 Points)
- Firearms and Ammunition Manufacturers per Capita: Full Weight (~3.18 Points)
- Gun Shows per Capita: Full Weight (~3.18 Points)
- Average Wages & Benefits in Firearms Industry: Full Weight (~3.18 Points)
- Total Firearms-Industry Output per Capita: Full Weight (~3.18 Points)
- Total Excise Taxes Paid by Firearms Industry per Capita: Full Weight (~3.18 Points)
- Gun Industry Immunity: Full Weight (~3.18 Points)
Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of a state statute that protects gun manufacturers and dealers from liability lawsuits. It is similar to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA.
- Strictness of State Gun Laws: Full Weight (~3.18 Points)
Note: This is based on Giffords Law Center ranking of state gun legislation, analyzing safety regulations like universal background checks, extreme risk protection orders, “Stand Your Ground” type policies and permitless carry laws.
- Minimum Age to Purchase & Possess Firearms: Full Weight (~3.18 Points)
Notes: This is a composite metric that includes:
- Purchase of a Handgun: Binary metric: 21 years = 1; all other than 21 years = 0
- Purchase of a Long Gun: Binary metric: 21 years = 1; all other than 21 years = 0
- Possession of a Handgun: Binary metric: 21 years = 1; all other than 21 years = 0
- Possession of Long Gun: Binary metric: 21 years = 1; all other than 21 years = 0
Gun Prevalence – Total Points: 35
- Gun Ownership Rate: Full Weight (~8.75 Points)
- Gun Sales per 1,000 Residents: Full Weight (~8.75 Points)
Note: Approximated using National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) data.
- Gun Ads for Private Buying & Selling: Full Weight (~8.75 Points)
Note: This composite metric uses data from Third Way to measure private-seller for-sale ads for firearms per capita and want ads seeking to purchase from private sellers per capita.
- Google Search Interest for Gun Sales: Full Weight (~8.75 Points)
Note: This metric measures Google search interest for the terms “buy gun” and “gun shop.”
Gun Politics – Total Points: 30
- Gun-Control Contributions to Congressional Members per Capita: Full Weight (~10.00 Points)
- Gun-Rights Contributions to Congressional Members per Capita: Full Weight (~10.00 Points)
- Senator Score – How Senators Voted on Gun Bills: Full Weight (~10.00 Points)
Notes: This is a composite metric that includes:
- Senator voted to add gun restrictions (or against a measure loosening restrictions) – 0
- Senator voted to loosen gun restrictions (or against a measure adding restrictions) – 1
- Senator did not vote, or was not a member at the time – 0.5
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, BMJ Publishing Group, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, GunShows-USA, Google Trends, National Public Radio, Third Way and the Center for Responsive Politics.
Image: Smit / Shutterstock.com