The federal government of the United States has very few laws that regulate the sale of guns. There have been pushes to introduce federal legislation on gun control, particularly after Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. However, many lawmakers still interpret the Second Amendment to mean that they should not regulate guns at all. There are some gun attachments – such as high-capacity magazines – that are banned at a federal level. However, for the most part, gun laws are governed by states.
Some U.S. states have little to no gun regulation on guns at all. Some of the most lenient gun laws are known as open carry laws, meaning that someone can openly carry a firearm in public. Other states are concealed carry only. Some of the strictest gun laws require the person to pass a background check and undergo training before purchasing a gun.
States with the Strictest Gun Laws
California is the state with the strictest gun laws, and it also has the seventh-lowest rate of deaths by gun violence. In addition to regulation on who can purchase a gun and what kinds of firearms may be legally obtained, California gun laws allow for funding to community programs that have reduced gun-related violence. Other states with strict gun laws include Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Hawaii, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Some of these states require background checks and a waiting period before someone is allowed to purchase a gun; some require that they undergo training first.
For example, in Massachusetts, those who wish to purchase a firearm must obtain a permit to purchase from their local police department. This process alone can take weeks and requires paperwork, an interview, and a background check. After all of that, the police chief still has the discretion to deny the license. After obtaining a license, the purchaser must present the license at the gun store and pass additional background checks.
Unsurprisingly, the states with the strictest gun laws generally have the lowest gun ownership rates. Massachusetts and New Jersey have the lowest gun ownership in the U.S. at 14.7%, Hawaii's is 14.9%, and New York's is 19.9%. Of the eight states with at least an A-, the highest gun ownership rate is 30.2% in Maryland.
Additionally, gun deaths are significantly lower in states with strict gun laws and low gun ownership. Rhode Island's gun ownership is the second-lowest in the country at 14.8% and has the lowest gun death rate at 3.28 per 100,000 people. Massachusetts has the second-lowest gun death rate at 3.46 per 100,000 people, followed by New York and Hawaii with 4.03 each and New Jersey with 4.75.
States with the Least Strict Gun Laws
The states with the most lenient gun laws are New Hampshire, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Texas, Montana, West Virginia, Alabama, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alaska, Kansas, South Dakota, Arizona, Kentucky, Missouri, Idaho, Wyoming, and Mississippi. Many states are trying to enact legislation to promote gun safety, as gun violence continues to be a leading cause of death throughout the country.
Many states that have tight gun laws are surrounded by states that do not have strict gun laws. As a result, guns are often brought in from neighboring states, usually illegally. If you want to obtain a weapon, check with your state's laws and make sure that you comply with them. Bringing in a firearm from another state that has looser rules can land you into much trouble. Gun laws are very controversial, and you probably have strong feelings about them, whether you are for gun control or not. However, keep in mind that gun laws are first and foremost to promote public safety, and abiding by them is in everybody's best interest.