Unlike many federal laws, state gun laws are mandated by state-level governments. Since gun laws are regulated on a state level, gun laws vary from one state to the next. There are many federal firearm laws in place, and they apply to all 50 states, but beyond the laws set forth by the federal government, state gun laws cannot be changed by the federal government.
Political viewpoints and party affiliations play a part in the state gun laws because truth be told, guns are a political discussion. Some parts of the United States have gun laws that are looser than the regulations set forth by the federal government, but some states are at the other extreme, with stricter enforced gun laws than those of the federal government.
When you hear the term of federal firearms laws, you might be under the assumption that it is required that citizens abide by them since they are being put forth at such an official level of authority. However, this is not the case.
As the result of a court case between Printz and the United States government, the Supreme Court justices ruled that local state governments do not have to uphold and enforce the firearms laws of the federal government. Forty of the 50 states in the U.S. have something in place that protects their residents' access to the Second Amendment, which is the right to bear arms.
Federal Firearms Laws in the United States
The act of carrying firearms in the United States can be defined in two different ways, and you'll see each of these descriptions pop up in discussions about state gun laws in the U.S. You can either carry a firearm as a concealed carry weapon or as an open carry weapon.
Concealed carry firearms are tucked away and not visible to people around you, whereas an open carry firearm is out in the open without any attempt to disclose the fact that you have a weapon on your person. Each state-level government is in charge of how their residents can carry firearms within that particular state's borders.
Likewise, states determine whether or not you need a permit to carry weapons in public spaces. There are not many states that explicitly deny citizens the right to bear arms, primarily because this is technically illegal, given the nature of the United States Constitution.
However, states can get around the illegality of banning their residents from carrying weapons by making an application process as daunting, exhaustive, and lengthy as possible. In doing so, people either give up or do not meet the requirements necessary for obtaining a permit, and therefore, carrying a firearm is not possible after all.
State-Level Gun Law Statistics
On the state level, seven U.S. states completely ban any open carry activity. Only eight of the 50 states require that people who own firearms register their weapons with the state. Twenty-two states in the U.S. enforce regulations known as deadly force laws.
There is also something called the Stand Your Ground Law. For many people, this law creates instances where murder is excusable and legal. For others, they are in full support of the right to defend their property, selves, families, and belongings. No matter your opinion on the law, the truth of the matter is that twenty-seven states in the U.S. uphold the Stand Your Ground Law.
Essentially, this state-level law permits people to use deadly force if it is under the category of protecting themselves. This is a very loose way of defining the law, which is why so many different issues arise from it. Reasons and restrictions for using deadly force on an intruder, a stranger, or a person you know include: their behavior is unlawful or dangerous, someone is breaking into your home, office, car, or another piece of property, nothing you have done prompted behavior of the individual, the intruder is not a police officer on duty, the genuine possibility or fear that the intruding person will inflict serious harm should they enter the premises.
Because state gun laws vary significantly, so do guns per capita, rates of gun ownership, and gun deaths.
Individual States and Their Gun Laws as of 2021
The table below lists each state's laws regarding: firearm registration, firearm permits, concealed carry, and open carry.