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Montana leads nation in gun ownership rate

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David Beasley | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – Montana leads the nation in gun ownership, a new study by the personal finance website WalletHub found.

Montana's gun ownership rate is 65 percent, and the state also ranks fifth in the study for its "dependency on the gun industry," which the website measured using three dimensions (firearms industry, gun prevalence and gun politics) and 16 metrics.

Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, is not surprised by the state's ranking, he told The Center Square.

The group estimates that 90%-95% of the homes in Montana contain firearms, Marbut said, with hunting being one reason for that high percentage.

"There are people who live in Montana just for the hunting," he said. "In the fall, there is deer and elk hunting. In other times of the year, there is bear and mountain lion hunting, moose hunting, sheep, goats, game bird and waterfowl hunting. When none of those is in season, there is always gopher hunting and prairie dog hunting, coyote hunting and other kinds of hunting of unregulated species."

Marbut added that the state also has a very strong competitive shooting community.

"There are all kinds of shooting communities," he said. "There is bullseye and high power, smallbore, long range, metallic silhouette, trap and skit, sporting clays, practical pistol and long-range precision rifle and others."

Then there are the "plunkers," who just like to go out and shoot at tin cans or go to the firing range and shoot at paper targets, according to Marbut.

Self defense is also a major factor in gun ownership in Montana, he added.

"They just want to be able to choose whether or not be victims," Marbut said. "You put all of that together and there are a lot of reasons why people in Montana own firearms."

The state has a low rate of mass shootings and gun violence, Jill Gonzalez, analyst and attorney for WalletHub, told KGVO.

“We actually did a correlation here in terms of the state dependency on the gun industry versus the number of mass shootings,” she told KGVO. “And Montana is one of the states where you do see a high dependency on the industry with relatively low mass shooting numbers, and that's the same with states like Idaho, Wyoming and South Dakota, so that number does look pretty good here.”