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Wyoming

Wyoming's Election Issue: Gun Rights

Palin's Hunting Backyard Gives Republicans an Edge Here

For some Wyoming residents, guns are as much a part of life as the wildlife that inhabits much of the state's landscape. Firearms are an indelible part of the culture in places like Jackson Hole, where the buffalo don't just roam, they block traffic.

And for families like the Allans, Second Amendment concerns help mold their presidential picks. Because guns aren't just a political issue, they are a way of life.

"Guns are just part of our life," said Clark Allan, who added, "I have a chainsaw by the door, I have a shovel I have a gun and we use 'em all the time. Living in a big city they probably don't have chainsaws and shovels by the door either."

The family owns somewhere between 20 and 25 guns, but thinks it needs more.

And when Clark Allan shopped for a potential president, the local prosecutor looked for a candidate who favored few gun regulations and restrictions.

Enter firearm friendly Sarah Palin stage left. When the Alaskan governor became part of the political equation, the Allans found someone they could support.

Seeing pictures of the Palin hunting and proudly posing, the Allans found Palin's family life looked much like their own.

Clark Allan's wife liked "the fact that she hunts and fishes and lives in Alaska and she's a mother." "She is a strong woman," she said.

The Allans love of hunting has been passed on to their children. Daughter Ashleigh Allan, a straight-A student and stone-cold shot, has helped her 7-year-old brother, Stuart Allan, learn how to handle firearms by giving him shooting tips.

She admits the view of gun control is different in larger cities than where she lives, but said that's because the environment breeds a completely different way of life.

"We are some of the safest kids," Ashleigh said. "It's kids who don't know what guns are that when it becomes unsafe."

But statistics have shown firearm death rates are significantly higher in places with relaxed guns laws.

Wyoming ranks 15th among the states in firearm fatalities, according to a 2005 study from the Kaiser Foundation. (Interestingly, Alaska takes the No. 2 spot.)

Still, that won't sway the minds of Wyoming voters who consider gun rights a primary issue this election season.

That could explain why John McCain is trouncing Barack Obama in the latest polls, which have the Arizona senator with a 37 percent lead.

So in all likelihood, the Republican will pocket the three electoral votes from the Equality State.

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