Most U.S. firearms go unregistered, so numbers are hard to come by. Still, there are windows into the world of gun ownership — slices of data that offer pieces to the puzzle.
The RAND Corporation published a 2020 study on adults who say they live with at least one gun. And every year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms publishes a list of federally registered guns by state. It covers only a subsection of weapons — short-barreled shotguns, short-barreled rifles, and machine guns are included, along with silencers and destructive devices like grenades, but ordinary pistols or AR-15s are not.
So which states had the most such licenses in 2021? Here's the latest ranking, along with the RAND numbers, which reveal insights into America's love of guns.
51. Rhode Island
Federal licenses in 2021: 4,887
RAND estimates 14.8% of adults in Rhode Island live in homes with guns.
David DeLoia, the owner of Heritage Gun & Coin in West Warwick, says he saw an uptick in applications for gun purchases while businesses were shuttered due to the pandemic in 2020.
Federal licenses in 2021: 6,092
An estimated 34.4% of Delaware adults live with at least one firearm at home.
Here, members of the Delaware Militia carry assault rifles at the Gettysburg National Military Park on July 1, 2017 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Licenses in 2021: 9,280
An estimated 14.9% of adults in Hawaii have guns at home.
Here, Jerry Ilo teaches a hunter-education training course in Honolulu.
Licenses in 2021: 9,451
An estimated 50.5% of Vermont adults have guns in their homes.
In this photo, police display drugs and guns confiscated in the state.
Licenses in 2021: 21,396
RAND found that 46.8% of adults in Maine have at least one gun at home.
Here, cut-up firearms are piled on the ground at the Falmouth Police Department in 2021.
Licenses in 2021: 28,237
In Alaska, 64.5% of adults share their homes with at least one firearm.
Children shoot a rifle in Newtok.
45. North Dakota
Licenses in 2021: 30,975
Guns are in the households of 55.1% of adults in North Dakota.
In this photo, Rick Berg target shoots at the National Guard Armory in Bismarck.
Licenses in 2021: 36,678
With 66.3% of adults living in homes with guns, Montana is the highest-ranking state in the RAND study.
Bruce Nemec of Montana looks at a Bushmaster BA-50 bolt action rifle at the Remington booth at a 2018 trade show.
Licenses in 2021: 43,261
An estimated 45.2% of Nebraska adults have guns in their homes.
Licenses in 2021: 45,138
An estimated 14.7% of Massachusetts adults have a gun in their home.
Here, confiscated guns on display as federal officials announce multiple arrests in a drug and weapons investigation in 2021 in Boston.
41. West Virginia
Licenses in 2021: 50,963
An estimated 58.5% of West Virginia adults have guns in their homes.
Fortitude Ranch is a survivalist retreat in Mathias. Their motto is, "Prepare for the Worst... Enjoy the Present!" Here, the camp's chief operating officer stands next to a 50-caliber gun.
According to the camp's website, members can enjoy outdoor space for hiking or raising livestock as well as more than a dozen basement rooms, should people need protection from radioactive fallout. The facility also functions as a time share: Members can book the ranch for two weeks per year for family vacations.
Licenses in 2021: 54,178
In Iowa, 43.6% of adults have guns in their homes.
In this photo, high school students prepare for a trapshooting match in Osage.
39. South Dakota
Licenses in 2021: 64,666
An estimated 55.3% of South Dakota adults have guns in their homes.
A pink rifle with the inscription "My First Rifle" sits in a gun store in Pierre, South Dakota.
Licenses in 2021: 69,850
An estimated 48.9% of Kansas adults have firearms in their homes.
Assistant Kansas Attorney General Amy Hanley shows a jury a Ruger Redhawk gun during a 2013 murder trial.
37. New Hampshire
Licenses in 2021: 72,433
In New Hampshire, 41.1% of adults have guns in their homes.
An armed member of a militia group shows off his gun in front of the state Capitol in Concord, New Hampshire on January 17, 2021.
36. District of Columbia
Licenses in 2021: 74,315
Here, a red-hot gun barrel is prepared for work on a blacksmith's anvil at an event near the U.S. Capitol in 2021. The initiative aimed to transform firearms into gardening tools.
Licenses in 2021: 74,874
In Connecticut, 23.6% of adults have a firearm in their home.
This police photo shows guns and ammunition found at the scene of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown in 2012.
Licenses in 2021: 76,425
RAND found that 60.1% of Idaho adults have guns at home.
A member of the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, headquartered in Boise, holds an automatic rifle while standing near the U.S. Capitol Building on the eve of the inauguration of President Joe Biden.
Licenses in 2022: 80,712
In Mississippi, 55.8% of adults have guns at home.
Jake Driskell, a police officer and owner of Gun Guy Tactical, helps first-time shooter Katherine Huffman in Petal.
32. New York
Licenses in 2021: 92,191
An estimated 19.9% of New Yorkers share their homes with at least one firearm.
These once-illegally-owned guns were seized by the New York Police Department in 2013.
Licenses in 2021: 95,430
Guns are in the homes of 45.3% of Wisconsinites.
A model walks the runway during the NRA Concealed Carry Fashion Show in Milwaukee.
Licenses in 2021: 97,474
Guns are in the households of 50.8% of Oregonians.
Here, a far-right demonstrator holds an apparent assault rifle during a confrontation with anti-fascist protesters on August 8, 2021 in Portland, Oregon. After taking the man into custody, police later confirmed the rifle was a replica Airsoft weapon.
29. New Jersey
Licenses in 2021: 102,228
An estimated 14.7% of New Jersey adults have a gun in their home.
Here, a man holds a handgun for sale at the RTSP shooting range in Randolph.
Licenses in 2021: 103,368
In Oklahoma, 54.7% of adults have guns at home.
The founder and president of H&H Gun Range smiles at a Henry Golden Boy rifle at his store in Oklahoma City.
Licenses in 2021: 108,833
In Kentucky, 54.6% of adults have firearms at home.
Christian Florea, 10, looks over an FN MK 48 machine gun at an NRA event in Louisville.
Licenses in 2021: 109,835
In Michigan, 40.2% of adults have at least one gun at home.
Here, armed protesters calling for an end to restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 gather outside the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing in April 2020.
Licenses in 2021: 113,351
In Missouri, 48.8% of adults have guns at home.
In late June 2020, Mark and Patricia McCloskey of St. Louis brandished guns at Black Lives Matter protesters. The couple said they were defending their home. They were charged with one count each of unlawful use of a weapon, a felony, but later pardoned by the governor.
Licenses in 2021: 118,408
In Utah, around 46.8% of adults share their homes with guns.
The owner of Ready Gunman in Springville stands behind the counter at his shop.
An estimated 47.3% of Nevada adults have guns in their homes.
Country music star Miranda Lambert attends the 51st Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena with a tiny pistol in a holster attached to her shoe.
22. South Carolina
Licenses in 2021: 119,205
In South Carolina, 49.4% of adults say they share their homes with at least one gun.
Mike Jones poses beside a display in a gun store in Simpsonville.
21. New Mexico
Licenses in 2021: 122,968
In New Mexico, 46.2% of adults have at least one gun at home.
Salesman Nathan Williams attends to customers at The Outdoorsman gun shop in Santa Fe.
Licenses in 2021: 129,825
An estimated 42.8% of Minnesotans share their homes with at least one firearm.
A Ruger .22 caliber semiautomatic and other guns are displayed on an American flag in Woodbury.
Licenses in 2021: 133,981
Around 57.2% of Arkansans say they have guns in their homes.
A North Little Rock gun shop displays a semi-automatic handgun and a holster.
Licenses in 2021: 136,257
Guns are in the households of an estimated 30.2% of Maryland adults.
A woman practices holding a handgun at a National Rifle Association virtual shooting booth in National Harbor.
Licenses in 2021: 142,247
In Wyoming, an estimated 66.2% of adults live in homes with guns.
The co-owners of Thunder Beast Arms Corp. prepare to shoot high-powered rifles at a range west of Cheyenne.
Licenses in 2021: 144,749
In Illinois, 27.8% of adults say they at least one firearm at home.
Dr. Shandrea Boyd shoots at the Eagle Sports gun range during a concealed-carry certification test in Oak Forest.
Licenses in 2021: 149,382
An estimated 45.1% of adults in Colorado say they live in homes with guns.
Here, a Bush Master AR-15 semi-automatic rifle is displayed at Firing-Line gun shop in Aurora.
Licenses in 2021: 151,536
In Tennessee, 51.6% of adults have guns in their homes.
Convention-goers look at Old West handguns at an NRA gathering in Nashville.
Licenses in 2021: 152,061
An estimated 53.1% of adults in the Bayou State have guns at home.
While her husband looks on, Madelie Sellers shoots a .45 caliber pistol at Precision Guns and Indoor Range in Baton Rouge.
Licenses in 2021: 157,546
In Indiana, 44.8% of adults have at least one firearm at home.
An NRA convention-goer holds a 24-karat-gold-plated Desert Eagle pistol at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.
Licenses in 2021: 165,534
Guns are in the households of an estimated 42.1% of Washington state residents.
Tiffany Teasdale, owner of Lynnwood Gun and Ammunition, demonstrates a Daniel Defense DD5 semi-automatic rifle on April 2, 2020.
Licenses in 2021: 194,920
An estimated 55.5% of adults in Alabama have guns at home.
Prince William County prosecutor Richard C. Conway holds the grip of a small gun during a 2003 trial.
Licenses in 2021: 208,661
In Ohio, 40% of adults have at least one firearm at home.
Customers peruse the merchandise at a gun show in Mansfield.
8. North Carolina
Licenses in 2021: 222,166
The RAND report found that 45.8% of adults in North Carolina have guns in their homes.
Bret Reid shows off a Remington 700 hunting rifle and a Remington 1100 shotgun at Atlantic Outdoors gun shop in Stokesdale.
Licenses in 2021: 258,691
In Arizona, an estimated 46.3% of adults have guns at home.
Members of a self-appointed civilian paramilitary group prepare to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border near Arivaca.
Licenses in 2021: 304,124
Around 49.2% of Georgian adults live in homes with guns.
Makenzie Wynn poses with a Black Rain Ordnance rifle at an NRA event in Atlanta, as her father snaps a photo.
Licenses in 2021: 348,167
An estimated 40.7% of adults in Pennsylvania have guns in their homes.
Gun salesman Nathan Palermo is shown here holding an AR-15.
Licenses in 2021: 406,360
An estimated 28.3% of adults in California have guns in their homes.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti shows the results of an anonymous gun buyback program in 2017.
Federal licenses: 423,707
Around 44.6% of adults in Virginia have guns at home.
A marcher wears a pistol on his hip during a "Unite the Right" demonstration in Charlottesville.
An estimated 35.3% of adults in Florida live in homes with guns.
Brandon Wexler demonstrates with a weapon at the K&W Gunworks store in Delray Beach.
Licenses in 2021: 1,006,555
In Texas, 45.7% of adults say they live in homes with guns.
A man carries a rifle with a Texas flag attached to it during a police-appreciation rally in Houston.