Guns, and the laws that govern them, are central to the foundation of the United States. Foundational documents like the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, reference people’s right to own and bear arms. Generally, these gun laws relate to the regulation of gun manufacture, trade, transfer, possession, transport, record keeping, and more. They come in many variations from the laws that enable people to openly carry guns in public in full view of everyone, to other laws that limit who can have access to a firearm, usually those who fail to pass a background check.
Gun laws vary from state to state. In some U.S. states, there is virtually no gun regulation at all, like Montana and Alaska. On the other hand, some states have stricter gun legislation. Some of these states which have the strictest gun laws tend to be those which are most populous and have a larger urban community, those who are residing in cities compared to those in rural areas. Take California for example, which has the strictest gun laws in the United States and has the seventh lowest rate of death by gun violence despite being the most populous state. Other states with some of the strictest gun laws include New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and Connecticut.
|State||Gun Law Grade||Gun Death Rate||Red or Blue State|
|Colorado||B||15.4 per 100k||Democrat|
|Delaware||B||14.4 per 100k||Democrat|
|Oregon||B||13 per 100k||Democrat|
|Pennsylvania||B||13.6 per 100k||Swing State|
|Rhode Island||B||5.1 per 100k||Democrat|
|Virginia||B||13.4 per 100k||Democrat|
|Washington||B||10.9 per 100k||Democrat|
|California||A||8.5 per 100k||Democrat|
|Connecticut||A||6 per 100k||Democrat|
|Hawaii||A||3.4 per 100k||Democrat|
|Illinois||A||14.1 per 100k||Democrat|
|Maryland||A||13.5 per 100k||Democrat|
|Massachusetts||A||3.7 per 100k||Democrat|
|New Jersey||A||5 per 100k||Democrat|
|New York||A||5.3 per 100k||Democrat|
|Florida||C||13.7 per 100k||Swing State|
|Michigan||C||14.6 per 100k||Swing State|
|Minnesota||C||8.9 per 100k||Swing State|
|Nebraska||C||10.1 per 100k||Republican|
|Nevada||C||17 per 100k||Swing State|
|New Mexico||C||22.7 per 100k||Democrat|
|North Carolina||C||16 per 100k||Swing State|
|Vermont||C||11.6 per 100k||Democrat|
|Wisconsin||C||12.2 per 100k||Swing State|
|Indiana||D||17.3 per 100k||Republican|
|Ohio||D||15.2 per 100k||Swing State|
|Alabama||F||23.6 per 100k||Republican|
|Alaska||F||23.5 per 100k||Republican|
|Arizona||F||16.7 per 100k||Swing State|
|Arkansas||F||22.6 per 100k||Republican|
|Georgia||F||17.7 per 100k||Swing State|
|Idaho||F||17.6 per 100k||Republican|
|Iowa||F||11.2 per 100k||Republican|
|Kansas||F||16.9 per 100k||Republican|
|Kentucky||F||20.1 per 100k||Republican|
|Louisiana||F||26.3 per 100k||Republican|
|Maine||F||10.4 per 100k||Democrat|
|Mississippi||F||28.6 per 100k||Republican|
|Missouri||F||23.9 per 100k||Republican|
|Montana||F||20.9 per 100k||Republican|
|New Hampshire||F||8.9 per 100k||Democrat|
|North Dakota||F||13.8 per 100k||Republican|
|Oklahoma||F||20.7 per 100k||Republican|
|South Carolina||F||22 per 100k||Republican|
|South Dakota||F||13.6 per 100k||Republican|
|Tennessee||F||21.3 per 100k||Republican|
|Texas||F||14.2 per 100k||Republican|
|Utah||F||13.6 per 100k||Republican|
|West Virginia||F||18.1 per 100k||Republican|
|Wyoming||F||25.9 per 100k||Republican|
States With Strictest Gun Laws
The states with the strictest gun laws are California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York. This ranking is based on the Giffords gun law scorecard who ranks and gives letter grades to states based on their gun laws and policies, with A being the strictest gun laws, and F being the weakest gun laws. California has the strictest gun laws in the country, scoring A on the Giffords gun law scorecard. New Jersey is another state that has the strictest gun laws in the U.S., receiving A on the gun law scorecard. Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York have also some of the strictest gun laws in the country, scoring A on the Giffords gun law scorecard.
States With the Strictest Gun Laws
1. California – A
2. New Jersey – A
3. Connecticut – A-
4. Hawaii – A-
5. Illinois – A-
6. Maryland – A-
7. Massachusetts – A-
8. New York – A-
State With Strictest Gun Laws
California and New Jersey are the states that have the strictest gun laws in the nation, scoring both A on the Giffords gun law scorecard. California requires a 10-day waiting period for all gun purchases, as well as a thorough background check for all gun purchasers. This includes criminal background checks, mental health checks, and purchasing permits that must be renewed every 5 years. California has also banned certain types of firearms such as assault rifles, which provide greater accuracy and more rapid firepower than conventional hunting guns. New Jersey is similarly strict when it comes to gun laws. All handguns must be registered with the State Police and buyers must pass an approved firearms safety course before they can purchase one. Handgun magazines are limited to 15 rounds or less. Moreover, New Jersey requires firearms dealers to keep detailed transaction records including customer information and license plate numbers of cars used to transport guns from the dealer’s store; this helps law enforcement track illegal activity or trace back firearms used in crimes. Their strict gun laws are designed to ensure public safety while still allowing citizens their right to bear arms under controlled circumstances.
Gun Law Grade by State
Alaska does not have strict gun laws. According to its Giffords gun law scorecard, the state’s score is F. Indeed, Alaska does not have many restrictions on the purchase and ownership of firearms. Unlike other states, the state does not impose any waiting periods for purchasing guns or require a license to own one. Additionally, there are no restrictions on the types of weapons that may be owned or carried in public spaces. As a result, Alaskans can own semi-automatic weapons and long guns such as rifles and shotguns, without having to register them with the state or federal government. Furthermore, some cities do have laws related to concealed carry permits, but those laws are administered at the local level rather than by the state. Overall, this makes Alaska one of the least restrictive states when it comes to gun regulations.
California has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States, scoring A on the Giffords gun law scorecard. The regulations were implemented to reduce gun violence, which has been an ongoing issue in California. To be able to purchase a firearm in the state, residents must obtain a Firearm Safety Certificate by taking a written test. This is required for all firearms, including rifles and pistols. Furthermore, anyone buying ammunition must pass background checks and provide valid proof of identity or residency. Those convicted of serious crimes or suffering from mental health issues are prohibited from owning any firearms. There are also bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines put in place by lawmakers to establish additional safety measures for citizens.
Florida does not have the strictest gun laws in the country, receiving a C- on the gun law scorecard. The state does not require any kind of permit to purchase a firearm, nor does it have any restrictions on the kinds of firearms that can be owned by its citizens. In addition, there is no registration requirement for firearms and ammunition, and the state does not even require the owner to have a license to carry or possess a weapon. Furthermore, those under 18 years of age are allowed to possess guns if they are supervised by an adult at all times. All in all, gun laws in Florida are relatively lax compared to other states in America, making it quite easy for gun owners to purchase and own weapons throughout the state.
Illinois has some of the strictest gun laws, scoring A- on the Giffords gun law scorecard. This means that it is difficult for a person to purchase, possess, and carry firearms in this state. The Illinois State Police is responsible for issuing Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) cards that must be presented when purchasing a gun from an authorized dealer. To obtain a FOID card, individuals must pass a background check and meet numerous requirements such as being at least 21 years of age and not having any mental health issues. Additionally, all firearms in Illinois are required to be registered with the state police. All transactions involving guns must also be completed through licensed dealers and buyers need to complete an application form detailing their criminal record as well as other personal information. Furthermore, certain types of weapons are prohibited under Illinois law including assault-style rifles, machine guns, silencers, and certain types of ammunition magazines. By having these strict regulations on gun ownership and use, the state of Illinois aims to reduce the number of shooting incidents within its borders.
Kansas does not have strict gun laws as it was graded F on the gun law scorecard. In fact, Kansas has some of the most lenient gun laws in the United States, with many stating that it is one of the easiest states to obtain a firearm. Due to this, those who live in Kansas and wish to purchase a gun do not face any restrictions or regulations unlike many other states in the country which require certain waiting periods, licensing fees, and mandatory background checks. Kansas does not require its residents to obtain a permit in order to carry a concealed weapon, allowing citizens to bear arms without needing approval from state authorities. Moreover, while other states may have more strict regulations prohibiting the sale of certain firearms such as assault weapons, Kansas has no such legislation restricting what type of guns can be purchased within its borders. As such, anyone who is legally allowed by federal law to buy firearms can easily buy them within the state with no additional restrictions.
Maryland has some of the strictest gun laws, scoring A- on the Giffords gun law scorecard. Gun purchases require a seven-day waiting period, and all handguns must be registered with the state police. Maryland also has a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as a requirement that all purchasers of handguns must complete safety training. In addition, individuals must be 21 years or older to purchase or possess firearms, and background checks are required for any transfer of ownership. The state also prohibits certain individuals from owning firearms including those convicted of domestic violence offenses and those determined to be mentally ill. These regulations help ensure that firearms are safe in the hands of responsible citizens and that only authorized persons have access to them.
Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws, scoring A- on the gun law scorecard. The state requires firearms owners to be licensed, and all guns must be registered with local police. It is illegal to possess or carry a firearm without a permit that requires training and a background check. In addition, Massachusetts has a mandatory three-day waiting period for handgun purchases and an assault weapon ban on certain semi-automatic firearms. All purchasers must pass a safety test, license applicants must pass a comprehensive background check, and Massachusetts law prohibits anyone convicted of certain violent crimes from owning or possessing any type of firearm. The state also prohibits certain high-capacity magazines, as well as trigger cranks and bump stocks that increase the rate of fire on semi-automatic firearms. Finally, private sales must go through licensed dealers who require extensive paperwork for the transfer of ownership.
Nebraska does not have the strictest gun laws in the United States, receiving a C- on the Giffords gun law scorecard. It is one of the few states to have no waiting period when purchasing a firearm, meaning that one can legally buy a gun without having to wait. Additionally, almost all state-level gun laws are preempted by Nebraska law; this means that local governments cannot pass their own ordinances regulating guns beyond what is already established at the state level. Lastly, there are only a few restrictions placed on carry rights in Nebraska: felons and minors cannot possess a firearm, as well as those with certain mental health conditions or dishonorable military discharges.
New Mexico does not have the strictest gun laws in the country, receiving a C on the gun law scorecard. This leniency allows citizens to own and carry firearms without having to obtain any sort of license or permit. New Mexico does not impose any waiting periods on gun purchases or require registration of guns. Moreover, this lack of regulation makes it easy for people who are prohibited from purchasing firearms in other states such as felons and minors to purchase them relatively easily in New Mexico. It also allows individuals to bring their firearms into public places such as restaurants, stores, and churches without any restrictions on the type of firearm being carried.
New York Maryland has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, scoring A- on the Giffords gun law scorecard. New York requires all applicants for a pistol license to submit two character references, provide their mental health history, and pass a background check. Furthermore, state law prohibits the possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines and imposes strict limits on how many rounds they may contain. Beyond that, certain firearms classified as “assault weapons” are banned altogether, as is any firearm with an undetectable plastic component. Even further, private sales of firearms must take place at a licensed dealer who is required to obtain a background check before transferring ownership of the weapon.
Texas does not have strict gun laws as it was graded F on the gun law scorecard and is among the states with the fewest restrictions on firearms. As of 2021, background checks are not required for private transfers of long guns, no permit is necessary to open-carry handguns or long guns, and there is no magazine capacity limit. Furthermore, Texas does not have a red flag law that would allow judges to temporarily remove firearms from individuals deemed dangerous by family members or mental health professionals. As a result of these comparatively lax regulations, it is not uncommon for Texans to openly carry firearms in public areas such as parks and stores. Finally, Texas also allows people with felony convictions to possess firearms after their sentence has been completed.