Nevada loves to talk about guns on Instagram.
The state uses gun-related hashtags the most in the U.S., according to a study by the insurance company NetQuote.
The company combed through more than 6 million Instagram posts from 2013 to 2015 to find about half a million posts on the photo-sharing app with gun-related hashtags and location information. Nevada posts more than 200 gun-related hashtags for every 100,000 residents, according to the study.
Hawaii, Florida, Arizona and Oregon trail Nevada to make up the top five states using the most gun hashtags such as #2a, #firearms, #girlswithguns, #gunporn and #pewpew.
The study also lists Paradise, a designation for the area of unincorporated Clark County that includes the Strip, as the third-highest city for overall gun hashtag use. That part of the county uses 1.34 percent of the nation’s gun-related hashtags. The city with the highest gun hashtag use was Gainesville, Florida, followed by Anna, Texas.
The study attempts to draw parallels between the rates the hashtags are used and instances of gun violence, but there are several reasons why gun hashtags could be so popular in Nevada.
Guns are a political issue this year, thanks to a state ballot initiative proposing to expand firearm background checks to private party sales and transfers. Las Vegas also has gun tourism — multiple shooting ranges offer visitors the chance to shoot exotic firearms.
Bob Irwin, owner of The Gun Store at 2900 E. Tropicana Ave., said social media plays a large part in bringing in customers. His store has a presence on multiple social media platforms, especially Instagram.
“It’s a huge thing for us,” he said. “That’s how you reach people these days.”
In the old days, Irwin said, the store would take photographs of customers for them, but the rise of smartphone camera technology allows everyone to do it themselves. And they do.
“They’re standing in the lobby posting videos of themselves shooting before they even leave,” he said. “It’s a ritual.”
The website for The Gun Store has about 10,000 photos and videos from customers, and Irwin said he has two full-time employees to deal with social media marketing.
But Irwin said that Instagram users are as likely to share photos of themselves as anything else.
“It’s not just the gun industry, I imagine. It’s anything exciting they do,” he said.
The most common hashtag used alongside a gun-related hashtag in Nevada is #lasvegas. And as gun control has re-emerged as a major political issue in recent years, the study says that in December 2015, the hashtag #2a (a shorthand way some people refer to the Second Amendment) was used more often than #gun.
The study concludes: “#gun social media mentions mirror the nation’s views for better or worse.”