Wyoming Ranks #2 In Nation For Gun Ownership; Montana Barely Takes Top Spot

By the slimmest of margins, Montana topped Wyoming for percentage of households which owned firearms (66.3% - 66.2%).

Ellen Fike

September 22, 20213 min read

Gun store cody
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A gun store owner in Casper said he was not surprised Wyoming was ranked as No. 2 state in the nation for households that own guns.

Shawn Wagner of Wagner’s Outdoor Outfitters told Cowboy State Daily he was more surprised Montana managed to barely beat Wyoming out for the title of No. 1.

“I started out in this business while in Montana and learned up on all this good stuff at Big Bear Sports Center,” Wagner said Wednesday. “I’m kind of surprised they’re higher in percentage than us, because they have a fairly liberal crowd in the western part of the state.”

A 2020 report by the Rand Corporation (a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges) showed that Montana topped the nation for households that owned firearms with 66.3%.

Wyoming trailed closely at 66.2%.

As part of the Gun Policy in America initiative, RAND researchers developed annual, state-level estimates of household firearm ownership by combining data from surveys and administrative sources.

First, they used a small-area estimation technique to create state-level ownership estimates for each of 51 nationally representative surveys assessing household firearm ownership rates. They then used structural equation modeling to combine these survey-based estimates with administrative data on firearm suicides, hunting licenses, subscriptions to Guns & Ammo magazine and background checks into the final measure of household firearm ownership.

The resulting measure represented the proportion of adults living in a household with a firearm for each state in each year between 1980 and 2016.

Wagner noted that gun sales at his store have increased significantly since the pandemic started.

“Early on, all the stores were [busy] like that,” he said. “People couldn’t go to work, so they might as well go fishing, camping, shooting or some type of outdoor recreation. So we were busy because of that.”

Then, as the 2020 presidential election neared, gun sales again ticked up due to anxiety about the consequences of the outcome.

Now, Wagner is seeing a significant number of first-time gun owners, particularly women, visiting his store because they want to feel safe, or because they are part of a hunting family and have a new generation heading out to the woods or camps.

“I’d say about three-fourths of our gun sales are hunting related right now,” he said. “Our sales are double what they were before the pandemic. My store is tiny and we’re pushing out $1.5 to $2 million in products per year.”

While gun sales have increased over the last 18 months, Wagner is still seeing an ammunition shortage like he was in May.

“We got in a good size (shipment) of hunting ammo, but it was just for hunting, to the tune of about $25,000 wholesale and within a couple of weeks, it’s gone,” he said. “I don’t know how much longer this could last, but it could be another year.”

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Ellen Fike