The U.S. States Most Dependent on the Gun Industry

Rural states dominate the list of those most dependent on the $43 billion firearm industry for jobs, tax revenue, political contributions, and gun ownership, a fact that could prove decisive for Bernie Sanders this month.

The U.S. States Most Dependent on the Gun Industry

Idaho, Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, and Arkansas are the five U.S. states most dependent on the gun industry.

Delaware, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, and Maryland are the five least dependent.

These rankings were determined by the analysts at WalletHub, who were spurred by President Barack Obama's recent executive actions on gun control to compile a report on the social, economic, and political influence of the $43 billion firearm industry. Their findings offer a whole lot of data to process and digest.

'Gun Rights' states vs. 'Gun Control' states

You'll notice in the interactive map below (the darker blue states are the ones most gun-dependent) that the data doesn't withhold too many surprises. States that most would consider "pro-gun" have considerably more skin in the firearms game. States more associated with gun control have fewer ties to the industry.

How the rankings were determined

This analysis is built upon a methodology in which weighted scores are applied to various facets of these three primary categories:

1. The Firearms Industry: Jobs/wages/benefits, industry output, total taxes paid

2. Gun Prevalence: Firearm ownership and sales

3. Gun Politics: Political contributions from pro-gun and anti-gun lobbying organizations

Idaho, which was determined to be the most gun-dependent state, ranked second in the firearms industry category, eighth in gun prevalence, and fourth in gun politics.

Delaware, the least-dependent state, ranked 51st, 48th, and 51st in those same categories. (Note: The District of Columbia was included in these rankings, which is why Delaware is ranked 51st.)

Thoughts and analysis

Here are some key takeaways:

1. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders polls well in New Hampshire for several reasons. The most obvious is that he's a popular senator from adjacent Vermont. Another, subtler reason is that he's decidedly more "gun rights" than his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton. New Hampshire ranks seventh on WalletHub's list. It ranks no. 1 in number of firearms-related jobs per capita, as well as no. 1 in total industry output per capita. 

2. Gun ownership is highest in rural states. The top five: Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Interestingly enough, New Hampshire ranks 47th in total gun ownership, indicating that the state's ties to the gun industry stem more from the presence of major gun manufacturers than via private ownership, though in-state sales appear to be on the rise.

3. WalletHub presents an estimate that the gun industry was worth about $43 billion to the U.S. economy in 2014, and that it accounts for over 263,000 jobs. Many states — particularly those dark blue ones up above — take in a considerable amount of tax money from the industry. This suggests that efforts to maintain the firearm status quo aren't just the result of fervent devotion to the second amendment. Economics play a major part as well.

4. There's a huge difference between costs/benefits seen and unseen. You can touch and measure dollar amounts created by an industry, but can anyone adequately measure the more complicated losses caused by an industry? Here's a report that estimates the total cost of gun violence in 2012 to be around $235 billion. That's not a figure likely to be included in any firearm industry budget estimates.

The figures above don't offer any answers to whether "gun rights" or "gun control" is the way to go. They do present perspective on why politicians from certain states feel compelled to act in certain ways. Guns mean different things in rural states than in urban states. States where gunmakers reside aren't going to take kindly to real or perceived threats to their operation.

This is why "gun control" politicians hail from states like California or Delaware, where voters' lives aren't directly linked to the gun industry, rather than from Alaska or Arkansas, where guns form a key part of the economic culture (and the NRA boogeymen most actively thrive).

The Full Rankings:

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 

See the full data set at WalletHub.

Top photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images


Robert Montenegro is a writer and dramaturg who regularly contributes to Big Think and Crooked Scoreboard. He lives in Washington DC and is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Twitter: @Monteneggroll. Website:

A landslide is imminent and so is its tsunami

An open letter predicts that a massive wall of rock is about to plunge into Barry Arm Fjord in Alaska.

Image source: Christian Zimmerman/USGS/Big Think
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  • A remote area visited by tourists and cruises, and home to fishing villages, is about to be visited by a devastating tsunami.
  • A wall of rock exposed by a receding glacier is about crash into the waters below.
  • Glaciers hold such areas together — and when they're gone, bad stuff can be left behind.

The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.

Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .

"It could happen anytime, but the risk just goes way up as this glacier recedes," says hydrologist Anna Liljedahl of Woods Hole, one of the signatories to the letter.

The Barry Arm Fjord

Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach

Image source: Matt Zimmerman

The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.

Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest

Image source:

There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.

The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.

"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."

Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.

What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord

Moving slowly at first...

Image source:

"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."

The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.

Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.

Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.

While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.

Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."

How do you prepare for something like this?

Image source:

The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:

"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."

In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.

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