With roughly 180 firearms and ammunition manufacturers and the second most firearm-industry jobs per capita, Idaho’s economy leans heavily on the making and selling of guns, according to a study done by the financial website Wallet Hub.
Idaho ranks 3rd in the nation for gun ownership, with almost 57 percent of the population owning at least one firearm, according to Wallet Hub. Idaho edged out its neighbors Wyoming and Montana — which consistently ranked in the top 3 states for gun ownership is recent years — and only Alaska, with 61.7 percent, and Arkansas, with 57.9 percent, ranked higher.
With the 11th smallest population in the U.S. it is difficult to understand how such a small population, even a well-armed population, can sustain so many gun shops. Residents of Pocatello and Chubbuck have about a dozen firearm vendors to choose from just within the city limits.
“Because there’s not a lot of people, there’s more things to do with guns,” said Jared Huckstep, owner of Hux Customs gun shop in Chubbuck. “You just have to drive 10 minutes out of town to go shooting or hunting, and that’s how a lot of us were raised.”
According to Huckstep — who opened shop in August — the most popular items among his clientele right now are AR-15s and handguns.
“We try and keep AR-15 parts in stock because those are pretty much our No. 1 seller,” said Huckstep. “With a lot of people getting their concealed carries now handguns are probably No. 2.”
Sam Laoboonmi, of Sam’s Gun Shop in Pocatello, said he focuses on having parts that no one else has and keeping a wide selection of guns in store. He said that allows customers to make their purchases the day they come in, rather than wait for a specific gun or part to be ordered and shipped.
Huckstep and Laoboonmi said they are able to price competitively enough to compete with each other and with big box stores.
“I can sometimes have stuff for less than Wal-Mart,” said Laoboonmi.
Both Huckstep and Laoboonmi said that the vast majority of their business is local. Laoboonmi estimated that roughly 80 percent of his business is solely return customers.
“People could go buy a gun online and save maybe 10 bucks,” said Huckstep. “But people like to come in and handle a gun before they buy it, which I recommend.”
The federal government regulates the buying and selling of guns in the U.S. Some states have added stricter regulations, but Idaho isn’t one of them. Still, while there are many states with gun laws similar to Idaho’s, it is the state’s pro-gun culture that allows gun shops like Hux and Sam’s to stay in business.
“There’s a lot of sportsmen and hunters,” said John Price, a local gun enthusiast who was shopping at Sam’s Gun Shop on Tuesday afternoon. “And Idahoans love their Second Amendment rights.”