While U.S. citizens enjoy their natural right to keep and bear arms far more than the overwhelming majority of the rest of the world’s residents in other countries, this does not mean that the laws and regulations restricting those rights are applied evenly or consistently throughout the 50 states. This is a fact that any interested and active gun owner will no doubt attest to.
While gun ownership is permissible in every state, some states are far, far more friendly and permissible than others. Some states also show more firearm-friendly culture among the citizenry, while others see it relegated to a comparative oddity.
These different legal landscapes and cultures are of some importance to travelers as well as anyone contemplating a move or relocation who has a choice of where or whither.
In this article, I will be presenting my list of the 10 best states for gun ownership, as well as the 10 worst. Some of you readers firmly nestled into a state which stands as a beacon of 2nd Amendment freedom may enjoy seeing how your state compares to others like it, while those of you sadly trapped deep in “enemy” territory may have some planning to do as you lament your current predicament.
The criteria used for judging each state for placement on my list is simple, and relatively unscientific. I consider each state fares across several 2nd Amendment factors that are important to most gun owners: Legal Landscape (self-defense, stand-your-ground and other law), Concealed Carry, Gun Bans and Culture. I’ll explain each below.
- Legal Landscape – This category is of extra importance for all gun owners, but especially for gun owners who choose to carry or keep one at home for defensive purposes. Face it: not all states, even in ones where it is “legal” will treat you as the victim if you are forced to fire in self-defense. This category considers the presence or absence of Stand-Your-Ground (SYG) and Castle Doctrine laws and statutes as well as the general bias of the legal system for or against armed citizenry in such states.
- Concealed Carry – This category examines how easy and affordable it is to get a license to carry your pistol concealed in a given state, if one is required. Also considered here is how laws and regulations regarding prohibited places for carry are interpreted or enforced. Overall, the easier it is to carry concealed legally and in more places, the better a state will fare.
- Gun Bans – By feature or by type, some states have their own bans in place on use and ownership of what should be completely mundane guns or their components and accessories. Magazine capacity is a big point of contention here, as is banning any firearm by type or class.
- Culture – Some states bustle with thriving Pro-2nd Amendment groups, activities or commerce. Be it hunting, competition shooting, or manufacture and trade, these states will have guns and the lifestyle surrounding their use and ownership more tightly woven into the day to day life of its citizenry. Such places are always more welcoming and comfortable to gun owners than Meccas of anti-gun animosity.
The following states as placed on my lists are ultimately my opinion. While I have tried to be as fair and balanced as possible with respect to various interests as a whole, what is most important to me may not matter one lick to you, and vice versa. Please bear that in mind as you read on.
Caution: States are not homogenous, even their laws; while states’ laws will always apply within their borders, some localities and cities within them have even more stringent laws, or even entirely different requirements or restrictions on the exercise of your rights.
It is, as always, up to you to know the law backwards and forwards for any place you are considering living and owning guns.
Lastly, this list is not entirely comprehensive as to what a given state offers gun owners or holds against them. Instead, you should consider each entry a snapshot into the greater picture of what they have going on in the gun sphere within their borders.
The 10 Best States For Gun Ownership
Aside from a few standouts, the top 10 was actually a tough list to assemble! We are fortunate that there are so many states in our great country that recognize and enshrine our 2nd Amendment rights within the confines of the law, instead of doing the opposite as we will see later on the “other” list.
Some states are so close in effect of their laws that I had to pick on based on intangibles or even, gasp, my personal preference. So if you are surprised to see a state like Missouri missing, don’t be; I know how great your state is, and great for gun owners, Missourians!
Alaska tops the list with no-permit-needed concealed carry, the highest rate of gun ownership in the Union and extremely self-defense friendly laws. Additionally, Alaska no longer requires a law-enforcement officer sign-off on NFA-restricted purchases and transfers, further shoring up an already extremely pro-gun owner stance.
About the only thing that you can hold against Alaska is that it does not have much in the way of commercial or competitive shooting activity, though its hunting opportunities are rightly famous.
A long-time pro-gun state, Arizona is in many ways the premier destination for gun owners: robust concealed carry law (with no permit needed), open carry statutes and pro-victim use-of-force laws for self-defense, Arizona treats the good guys as what they are when scumbags want to press their luck.
Add to that a bustling commercial industry and competitive shooting scene and you have one of the friendliest and most welcoming places to live a shooter could ask for.
Idaho does not require its citizens to hold any sort of permit for concealed carry, and also keeps a pretty well hands-off policy on the subject of NFA items and banning guns or accessories by type.
In mid-2018, Idaho took a huge step in favor of gun ownership by finally revising their self-defense laws (a long overdue move) and also deleted the odious and dangerous legal duty-to-retreat statute. With that fell swoop, Idaho is no one of the best places for gun ownership in the U.S.
A state of many animals, incredible vistas, and few people, Wyoming is nonetheless quickly becoming a destination location for gun owners. A tune-up to what were previously poorly worded self-defense law clarifying no duty to retreat by citizens in addition to existing no-permit concealed carry has made for a welcome enhancement to what was already a staunchly pro-gun state.
Wyoming’s recreational shooting, training and hunting opportunities are many and vast, perfectly matching this sparsely populated state.
Oklahoma recognizes all other states CCW permits has no restrictions on any kind of guns, magazines or accessories, including NFA items. Oklahoma has long been pushing for proper no-permit carry, but that was unfortunately thwarted this year by their joyless governor.
That quibble aside, Oklahoma has a thriving long-range shooting culture thanks to its wide-open and flat expanses.
Slowly but steadily moving more and more pro-2A, Kansas recently passed a no-permit carry measure. Totally egalitarian on the subject of ownership and bans, you can have pretty much anything your heart desires in Kansas with minimal invasive checks on ownership.
Kansas, while very gun friendly, is not as booming in the competitive or sporting sector as some other states on our list and that keeps them from ranking a little higher.
Another long-time force for good among gun owners, Utah is still in the top 10 on our list. Comprehensive and pro-victim use-of-force laws and positively no restriction on use or ownership of any specific guns or accessories make Utah a great place to shoot, and also hopefully a holdout against future infringement of gun owners’ rights: a preemption law prevents localities and cities from enforcing their own gun control schemes
Concealed carry requires a permit, but other than that Utah is an excellent state for gun owners!
As befitting the Lone Star State’s proud history of cowboys, gunslingers, and pioneers, Texas remains a pro-gun bastion: Strong concealed carry law (with a permit), self-defense statutes and open carry provisions, no restrictions on firearms or magazines and gun culture that is as much a fabric of the state as the soil.
A positively booming gun culture including competition and manufacture cements Texas’ place in our list.
Montana is home to many firearms manufacturers, and sports a robust legal framework strongly in favor of gun owners. While it has sadly missed out on passing no-permit carry thanks to governor veto twice (buy a clue, Bullock!), it nonetheless remains highly pro-gun with a thriving culture to match. Permits are “Shall Issue” and Montana has both SYG and Castle Doctrine in effect.
Tennessee has many places to shoot, some excellent world-class training facilities and an active and busy gun culture. The state does require permits for concealed carry (Shall Issue) but otherwise has excellent laws protecting the rights of gun owners, especially in cases of self-defense. You can hardly go wrong in the Volunteer State.
The 10 Worst States for Gun Ownership
And now the problem children on our list. These are the states that bend over backward at every opportunity, that stoop to new lows constantly in their quest to infringe on the right so gun owners. If they could have their way, there would be no 2nd Amendment at all.
It is not enough to say “whew!” and thank your lucky stars you don’t live in one of these states; as we have seen time and time again, these influential states often see their morally bankrupt and corrupt ideologies seep from their borders and spread to other areas.
It is up to all of us, but especially citizens living within their borders to fight these laws and educate our neighbors about gun rights on a grass roots level, lest we all chafe under the same yoke, sea to sea, one day.
Presented in descending order of terribleness.
1) New York
The headquarters of gun-grabbing professional scold Michael Bloomberg and other anti-2A leadership, New York may as well be Mordor for gun owners: handgun registration, magazine and firearm bans, no NFA item ownership, concerted efforts to regulate and attack gun-related businesses and service providers by financial and insurance institutions, the list is endless.
Crowning it all is a “May Issue” permitting system that is beyond draconian, and New York City requires a separate and impossible to obtain permit… Unless you know someone who knows someone and are willing to kiss the ring…
2) New Jersey
New Jersey has had it in for gun owners for some time and a recent flotilla of anti-gun bills signed into law has done nothing to help that reputation or its beleaguered citizens.
Confiscatory “Red Flag” laws, magazine capacity restrictions, caliber and bullet-type bans, May Issue permitting with steep fees, tedious and restrictive requirements, a defacto ban on NFA items (in practice, if not by law) and a hostile legal system prejudiced against gun owners. Bad, and bad to worse. Sadly New Jersey is showing no signs of reversing this trend.
New England states are in many ways the archetype by which freedom-hating, meddlesome liberals would see the entire U.S.’s laws molded. Massachusetts is no exception.
A ban on semi-autos that has withstood legal challenge, magazine capacity restrictions, dangerously vague confiscation provisions, and an overall atmosphere of stigma around gun ownership makes this one state to avoid for sure if you love guns and freedom.
4) Washington, D.C.
While recently forced to concede the point on the issue of CCW permits to subjects- ah, citizens living in the District, D.C. is still hatefully against the rights of citizens when it comes to gun ownership.
Broad bans on types of firearms and capacity, outright ban on NFA items, comprehensive registration requirements and some pretty troubling laws about a citizen’s duty to retreat when confronted make our nation’s capitol a place to avoid unless you want to do so unarmed.
California is actually an old Native American word for “Gun Grabber.” Ok, that isn’t true but it sure could be. For decades now, California has been the tip of the spear on anti-gun legislation, pumping out increasingly draconian tripe at an unceasing pace.
The state’s assault weapons ban mandates registration of entire classes of formerly legal firearms, and is growing broader all the time. The state also has restrictions on purchase age for firearms and an indecipherable county by county issue-basis for CCW permits. The weather may be nice, but the legal landscape for gun owners, decidedly, is not.
A newly minted “Red Flag” law in the state allows for trial-less confiscation of a person’s guns by court order, and that is just the tip of the Gun-Hating Iceberg. Yet another New England state that likes its subjects disarmed, Maryland nominally issues CCW permits, but is virtually impossible to gain one.
That is a double whammy since purchasing a handgun requires obtaining a permit, creating a bureaucratic bottleneck by design when it comes to citizens’ rights to keep and bear handguns. Many other types of guns are banned, also, though, curiously, NFA items are permitted.
7) Rhode Island
Another signor to the “Red Flag” laws so cheered and championed by anti-2A people, Rhode Island manages to outdo even that egregious slap in the face to gun owners: bump stocks have been banned, CCW permitting is complicated and far from certain even in light of a court ruling in the affirmative for them, no reciprocity and no NFA items of any kind.
Most guns are otherwise allowed by type, and magazines of any size are OK, but the state burdens already beleaguered defenders with a duty to retreat if attacked outside the home.
A fresh ban on bump stocks and May Issue CCW permitting form the center of a fairly restrictive state law that also bans magazines holding more than 10 rounds and so-called “assault weapons”.
The only silver lining is that, even though a permit is required to purchase a handgun, if you can qualify to buy a handgun you in essence qualify to get the permit. It is beyond stupid, and an embarrassment to all men of reason, but such is life in the states ruled by the clinically timid.
The Aloha State would rather say “au revoir” to gun owners: bump stocks are banned, magazines are all limited to 10 rounds or less and all NFA items, any type, are banned.
Many guns and other accessories are banned by type, and the permitting system for getting your CCW, though classed as May Issue, seems to issue very few permits. Interestingly, Hawaii does have a thriving gun culture, especially centered on hunting.
Only fairly recently acknowledging their citizens rights to carry concealed, Illinois still has a long way to go to reach parity with other pro-gun states. Long guns require a 3 day wait, and courts may issue protection orders that seize the guns of citizens without a trial.
Some locales have an “Assault Weapon” ban is in effect, as is one on magazine capacity. NFA items are verboten but one saving grace is Illinois’ otherwise strong self-defense laws.
That wraps our list of 2018’s best and worst states for gun owners. Did your state make the list, and did it make it good or bad? Do you live in a state that falls somewhere between the two extremes? Be sure and let us know how things are going in your state and locality down in the comments!