Strictest Gun Laws by State

Although federal gun laws provide a foundation for when a person is ineligible to own a firearm, each state also has a stake in regard to who can and cannot legally own a firearm. Generally, most states tend to expand upon the foundational federal gun regulations that are in play across the whole nation. That’s especially true in states with extremely densely populated cities, like New York state and Illinois.

Oftentimes in these states, but not always, being convicted of misdemeanor crimes of a particularly violent nature, where a victim is at threat of being harmed by the potential assailant, is enough for one to be deemed ineligible to own a firearm. As an example, in 2017, California put legislation in place that restricted access to firearms for at least ten years if a person was convicted for the misdemeanor offense of enacting a hate crime.

Other violent crimes that can prohibit a person from owning a firearm include but are not limited to assault, battery, aggravated assault, child endangerment, a few disorderly conduct crimes, and stalking offenses. Additionally, the vast majority of states mirror the federal gun laws that prohibit gun ownership to people who have prior convictions related to domestic violence.

Gun Laws

In the United States, access to guns is controlled by laws that lie under the federal statutes. These laws relate to the regulation of gun manufacture, trade, transfer, possession, transport, record keeping, and more. Gun laws 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. Guns, and the laws that govern them, are central to the foundation of the United States. Foundational documents like the U.S. Constitution, particularly the Second Amendment, reference people’s right to bear arms and hence is a large area of contention, especially with the U.S. experiencing one of the highest death by gun rate in the world. Groups, like the incredibly popular National Rifle Association (NRA), emerged to lobby on behalf of gun ownership and with millions of members, the NRA’s popularity goes to show the importance of gun ownership and culture in the United States.

Gun Control Laws

Gun control laws in recent years have been a main political talking point, an area highly contested, largely due to the year-on-year catastrophe of school shootings. Gun control laws come in varying forms, from high capacity magazine bans to red flag laws, which remove or prevent an individual from owning or purchasing firearms if they are considered a risk to themselves or others.

States with a more rural population and which have a history of outdoorsmanship typically have more relaxed gun control laws. While states with large urban populations, like California for instance, gun control and gun ownership are stricter and lower compared to states like Wyoming, where not even a permit is needed to purchase a gun.

States With Strictest Gun Laws

As mentioned above, gun laws mostly are governed by individual states. 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.

Open Carry

Open carry refers to carrying a gun in full view of the public, compared to concealed carry, where the weapon is out of view to the public. The debate surrounding the need and right of people to actively carry a gun, in open sight in a holster while conducting their daily business, is highly contested in the United States. Simultaneously, it has seen an increase in the number of those who open carry as a result. The debate largely surrounds the overall belief that trying to enforce any for, of gun regulation and legislation is an infringement on U.S. citizens’ Second Amendment rights. Proponents of open carry make claims, pointing to history, that those who conceal their weapons often have ill intent and are criminals, while those who openly carry are law-abiding citizens. Nevertheless, open carry remains a highly contested area, with states varying in great degrees to the level of gun legislation they introduce in their respective states.

Open Carry States

Open carry, the practice of visibly displaying one’s firearm in public spaces, has become common practice in some states, even increasing in numbers. However, open carry laws differ substantially from state to state. Most states throughout the U.S. allow for open carry, a total of 36. While other states have variations to the open carry law, some requiring a permit to do so and others prohibiting open carry entirely. The total number of states that require permits to openly carry a gun is 10, while only 4 states – California, Illinois, Florida, and New York – completely prohibit open carry altogether.

Concealed Carry States

Concealed carry is the practice of carrying a weapon, such as a gun, in a concealed manner, out of sight to the public. Concealed carry is different to open carry, in terms of the gun being visible to the public, also due to the varying legislation in place for both concealed and open carry. In the U.S., concealed carry states vary depending on the state legislature. There is a stark divide with almost half of U.S. states requiring a permit for concealed carry and almost another half requiring no permit at all. For instance, 25 U.S. states require a permit, another 24 do not, while one state, North Dakota, does not require a permit for its citizens only.

Learn more about states with the strictest gun laws by exploring the data in the charts.

Open Carry Prohibited by State

Alabama - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

38.7

#11 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

1,141

#16 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Alaska - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

38.5

#12 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

175

#41 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Arizona - Open Carry Prohibited

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do_not_disturb_on

OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

35.6

#14 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

1,265

#12 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Arkansas - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

44.3

#8 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

673

#26 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

California - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

Yes

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

10.4

#42 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

3,449

#2 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

Colorado - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

25.7

#21 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

922

#19 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

Connecticut - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

20.8

#34 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

219

#39 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

Delaware - Open Carry Prohibited

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do_not_disturb_on

OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

6.1

#44 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

135

#44 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

District of Columbia - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

Yes

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

110.9

#2 in the US

Florida - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

Yes

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

23.8

#24 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

3,041

#3 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

Georgia - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

28.2

#18 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

1,897

#4 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Hawaii - Open Carry Prohibited

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do_not_disturb_on

OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

6.4

#45 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

50

#50 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

Idaho - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

40.2

#9 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

321

#36 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Illinois - Open Carry Prohibited

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do_not_disturb_on

OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

Yes

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

11.4

#41 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

1,745

#7 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

Indiana - Open Carry Prohibited

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do_not_disturb_on

OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

23.1

#25 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

1,159

#15 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Iowa - Open Carry Prohibited

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do_not_disturb_on

OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

17

#36 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

351

#34 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Kansas - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

23.8

#26 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

494

#30 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Kentucky - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

24.1

#23 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

902

#20 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Louisiana - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

32.9

#17 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

1,183

#13 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

Maine - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

15.6

#39 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

153

#43 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Maryland - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

22.1

#29 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

803

#24 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

Massachusetts - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

6.5

#46 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

268

#37 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

Michigan - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

10.9

#43 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

1,454

#10 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

Minnesota - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

22.7

#30 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

513

#29 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

Mississippi - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

27.4

#19 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

818

#23 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Missouri - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

18.4

#35 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

1,426

#11 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Montana - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

33.2

#16 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

238

#38 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Nebraska - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

22

#31 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

197

#40 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

Nevada - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

37.9

#13 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

547

#28 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

New Hampshire - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

52.1

#6 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

128

#45 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

New Jersey - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

1.1

#50 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

443

#32 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

New Mexico - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

58.1

#5 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

479

#31 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

New York - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

Yes

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

4.6

#47 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

1,052

#18 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

North Carolina - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

21.1

#32 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

1,699

#8 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

North Dakota - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

40

#10 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

100

#47 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Ohio - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

17.7

#37 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

1,764

#5 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Oklahoma - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

25.9

#22 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

826

#22 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Oregon - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

23

#27 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

592

#27 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

Pennsylvania - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

26.9

#20 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

1,752

#6 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

Rhode Island - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

4.5

#48 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

54

#49 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

South Carolina - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

23

#28 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

1,131

#17 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

South Dakota - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

72.2

#4 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

120

#46 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Tennessee - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

21.7

#33 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

1,473

#9 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Texas - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

34.1

#15 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

4,164

#1 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Utah - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

3.4

#49 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

429

#33 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Vermont - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

14.6

#40 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

76

#48 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Virginia - Open Carry Prohibited

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do_not_disturb_on

OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

49

#7 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

1,174

#14 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

Washington - Open Carry Prohibited

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do_not_disturb_on

OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

1.2

#51 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

864

#21 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

West Virginia - Open Carry Prohibited

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do_not_disturb_on

OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

92.8

#3 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

325

#35 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes

Wisconsin - Open Carry Prohibited

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OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

16.3

#38 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

717

#25 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

No

Wyoming - Open Carry Prohibited

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do_not_disturb_on

OPEN CARRY PROHIBITEDhelp

No

REGISTERED GUN RATE PER STATEhelp

245.8

#1 in the US

GUN DEATHShelp

154

#42 in the US

CONSITUTITONAL CARRY STATUShelp

Yes