Civil Liberties

The Four States That Have the Biggest Gun Industry Economies in America

From jobs to political contributions to ownership, the firearms sector spans the United States.

A federal judge has ruled that the ban on citizens carrying handguns in public in the US capital is unconstitutional

We can’t truly address the epidemic of gun violence in the United States without taking a hard look at America’s deep-rooted economic dependence on the arms and ammunitions industry.

The firearms sector spans the country, including jobs, political contributions and ownership. According to one analysis, in 2014 alone the guns and ammunitions industry pumped almost $43 billion into the economy.

Gun manufacturers have emphasized their roles as job creators to justify their wide presence—and their power. Of course, they do not mention the high financial cost of gun violence, nor the immeasurable human loss.

From police killings to mass shootings, the disturbing—and often racialized—nature of gun violence in America is garnering concern and some limited reforms. Meanwhile, many argue that the heft of this industry is precisely the problem, pointing to the need for economic transformation that provides real alternatives to an increasingly deadly sector.

A new report from the personal finance website WalletHub provides a state-by-state breakdown of gun industry-dependence, citing data from the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Here are the top four states where the gun industry has a stranglehold on the lives, and the livelihoods of Americans.

1. New Hampshire leads the country in firearms-related jobs per capita, coming in at a stunning seven times that of Washington DC. The state also has the greatest total industry output per capita. Home to large-scale companies like Sturm, Ruger & Co., as well as smaller defense contractors, New Hampshire is peppered with gun and ammunition manufacturers. Notably, when it comes to gun ownership, New Hampshire comes in 47th in the country.

2. Idaho comes in right behind New Hampshire, with the second highest number of firearm industry jobs per capita. However, WalletHub places the state number one in overall gun dependence, thanks to its industry, gun prevalence and “gun politics” ranking. Notably, Idaho comes in 25th in the country in wages and benefits among those employed by the industry, raising questions about how ordinary people are faring amid the state’s heavy dependence. In 2013, Gov. Butch Otter infamously touted the state's low wages in a bid to attract gun manufactuers.

3. New Mexico is number one in exploitation, with workers in the firearms industry suffering the lowest wages and benefits in the nation, at three times less than their counterparts in Washington DC. Pay is suppressed in a state grappling with soaring unemployment and the highest child poverty rate in the country. At a time when many are hurting, the arms and ammunitions industry is paying far short of a living wage. 

4. Alaska comes in second in overall gun dependence, but number one in private ownership. The state is followed in ownership by Arkansas, Idaho, West Virginia, and Wyoming, all of them majority rural. According to the study, gun ownership in Alaska is a stunning 12 times that of Delaware.

WalletHub has its own national assessment of gun dependence, based on evaluation of the gun industry, politics and prevalence. Here is its ranking from most to least dependent.

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

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.