The second amendment, which was passed by Congress on September 25, 1789, states, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The private right to own a firearm — for protection, for hunting, or for enjoyment — has remained central to the national ethos of the United States. Americans living in most states today would not have much trouble buying a gun.
In 36 states, there are no legal requirements for gun registration, no permit needed and no license necessary to purchase and own a firearm such as a rifle, shotgun, or handgun. Due to the lack of these regulations, as well as the ease with which many Americans can purchase guns online or at gun shows, most guns in the United States are not registered.
Only a few million privately owned guns in the U.S. are registered with the federal government. The actual number of guns, however, is certainly far higher. Last year alone, U.S. gun makers manufactured more than 10 million firearms. According to a 2012 estimate from the Congressional Research Service, there are as many as 310 million guns across the nation.
In states where weapons can be purchased with relative ease, there are also far more venues for buying guns. Nationwide, for every 1,000 businesses, there are 19 that are licensed to sell guns. In 30 of the 36 states reviewed, there are more than 19 businesses licensed to sell arms for every 1,000 businesses. In Alaska, there are nearly 50 gun shops for every 1,000 businesses — the most of any state. By contrast, in New Jersey, which has relatively strict gun laws, there are fewer than three firearm licensees per 1,000 businesses.
These weapons are used for a range of purposes — primarily for recreation and peace of mind. A new study shows that while hunting was one of the most common reason for gun ownership among Americans, self-defense is now by far the most common reason given.
Some of these weapons, however, will be used to commit violent acts. For instance, in addition to accidents that often occur, thousands of weapons are reported lost or stolen every year, and many of these find their way into the hands of criminals. The connection between gun laws and firearm deaths is hotly debated in the United States. While liberals believe legal restrictions would lower gun death rates, conservatives hold that stricter laws would do little to curb the behavior of violent criminals.
While the solution may be unclear, the problem of shooting deaths in the United States is a serious problem. According to a recent study in The American Journal of Medicine, the firearm homicide rate is 25 times higher in the United States than in other high-income nations. Compared to other OECD nations, all of which have considerably stricter gun regulations, the United States is far and away the leader in gun homicides.
To identify the easiest states in which a person can buy a gun, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed gun laws in each state as catalogued by the National Rifle Association. To be considered, a state needed to have no legal requirements for gun registration, no permit needed to purchase, and no license necessary to own a firearm. The presence of regulations, including whether or not a permit to carry a weapon is required in a given state, for both handguns and long guns, also came from the NRA. The number of registered firearms per 1,000 adult state residents in 2015 came from the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ (ATF) annual report, “Firearms Commerce in the United States, Statistical Update 2015.” The number of licenses to sell firearms per 1,000 establishments in each state is as of 2014 and also came from the ATF. Population figures came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey.
These are the easiest states to buy a gun.
Correction: Due to an error on the NRA’s website at the time this data was collected, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Wisconsin has no permit to carry laws. In fact, as a result of legislation passed in 2013, a permit is required to carry concealed weapons in Wisconsin.