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Americans Own 300 Million Guns -- Where Can They Carry Them?

Douglas A. McIntyre

6. Vermont
> Concealed carry permit required: No
> Gun ownership rate: 28.8% (20th lowest)
> Firearm-related death rate: 11.0 per 100,000 (23rd lowest)

Vermont’s gun laws are exceptionally lenient even among other states on this list. Vermonters may carry openly or concealed firearms of all kinds anywhere in the state except for on school property or in a court house. There are also no screening processes such as background checks, quantity limits, or waiting periods required under state law. Those who have committed violent or gun-related misdemeanors, the mentally ill, and drug and alcohol abusers in the state are all legally able to purchase a gun.

Despite the lenient gun laws, the state is also exceptional as one of the safest in the country. Vermont’s violent crime rate of just 99 incidents per 100,000 residents in a year is the lowest of any state. The state’s firearm death rate of 11.0 per 100,000 people is also lower than the majority of states. While guns acquired in the state do not seem to be leading to higher levels of violence, Vermont is a major source of guns used in crimes outside the state, according to data published by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

7. West Virginia
> Concealed carry permit required: No
> Gun ownership rate: 54.2% (4th highest)
> Firearm-related death rate: 15.5 per 100,000 (13th highest)

West Virginia has scaled back its gun laws in recent years. The state removed in 2012 a requirement that firearm permit applicants be “physically and mentally competent to carry such weapons.” In a move qualifying the state for this list, West Virginia repealed in 2016 a law requiring residents 21 and older from obtaining a permit to carry a hidden, loaded weapon in public.

States with more relaxed gun laws tend to have higher rates of gun violence and deaths. West Virginia has one of the higher rates of gun deaths per capita in the country and nearly double the national rate of gun suicides. According to a report conducted by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, there is another potential consequence to greater ease of purchasing and carrying a gun — firearms are purchased relatively easily in-state, trafficked elsewhere, and used in crimes. For every 100,000 state residents, West Virginia is the source of 46.8 guns that are eventually used in crimes in other states.

8.  Wyoming
> Concealed carry permit required: No
> Gun ownership rate: 53.8% (5th highest)
> Firearm-related death rate: 15.9 per 100,000 (8th highest)

Wyoming allows its citizens to carry a concealed, loaded weapon nearly anywhere in the state except for in places of worship and bars and other establishments that serve alcohol. The state also does not require background checks, a license, or a waiting period before citizens can purchase a gun from a private source. Buyers can purchase as many guns as they like at any one time. They can also purchase assault weapons, 50 caliber rifles, and large capacity magazines. Wyoming gun owners do not need to register their weapons or report when any are lost or stolen.

Like the majority of states with limited restrictions on firearm sales and use, Wyoming has exceptionally high gun ownership and gun violence rates. While 29% of American adults own a firearm, 53.8% of Wyoming adults do, the fifth-highest proportion among all states. The state’s firearm death rate of 15.9 for every 100,000 residents each year is the eighth highest in the country.