Hardest States to Buy a Gun

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1. California
> Universal background check: Yes
> Gun ownership rate: 20.1% (9th lowest)
> Annual firearm death rate: 7.6 per 100,000 (8th lowest)
> Required safety training or exam: Yes

Even before the San Bernardino mass shooting, which resulted in the deaths of 16 people, California’s gun laws were among the strictest in the nation. For example, whenever a firearm is sold or loaned in California, the dealer must submit an application to the Department of Justice in order to determine whether the buyer meets the state’s stringent background check criteria. Since the shooting, California Governor Jerry Brown signed new regulations into law, including background check requirements for ammunition purchases and a ban on large capacity magazines.

As is the case in most states with the strictest firearm regulations, California’s gun ownership rate of 20.1% of adults and the gun-related fatalities rate of 7.6 deaths per 100,000 people are relatively low compared to other states.

2. Connecticut
> Universal background check: Yes
> Gun ownership rate: 16.6% (6th lowest)
> Annual firearm death rate: 5.2 per 100,000 (5th lowest)
> Required safety training or exam?: Yes

Though many Americans associate Connecticut with Sandy Hook, one of the deadliest and most horrific mass shootings in U.S. history, the state actually has one of the lowest gun death rates in the country. There are 5.2 firearm deaths in Connecticut for every 100,000 residents, a lower rate than in all but four other states. It is perhaps no coincidence that Connecticut has some of the most restrictive gun purchasing laws in the country.

The state is one of only a few that require universal background checks for all gun sales — even through a private dealer at a gun show. In addition, Connecticut requires all would-be firearm owners to obtain an eligibility certificate before they can purchase either a handgun or a long gun. The state is one of only six states to require safety training or an exam for the purchase of a firearm. Among the list of conditions, persons cannot buy a gun in Connecticut until they have completed an approved course covering the safe use of the type of firearm they wish to buy.

3. Delaware
> Universal background check: Yes
> Gun ownership rate: 5.2% (the lowest)
> Annual firearm death rate: 10.9 per 100,000 (22nd lowest)
> Required safety training or exam?: No

Delaware is the only state on this list that does not require a license to purchase any firearm. As a result, there is no mandatory safety training or exam in the state. However, of the four states in the country with universal background checks and no license requirement, Delaware residents cannot purchase guns if they have a gun-related criminal record, are mentally ill, or have been treated for substance abuse. Delaware courts are also authorized to force domestic abusers to surrender their firearms.

Perhaps due in part to strict gun laws, only about one in 20 adults in Delaware own a gun, the smallest share of any state in the country.

4. Hawaii
> Universal background check: Yes
> Gun ownership rate: 45.1% (10th highest)
> Annual firearm death rate: 2.8 per 100,000 (the lowest)
> Required safety training or exam?: Handguns only

While people can be restricted from buying a firearm in most states for having a violent criminal record or a history of drug abuse, Hawaii imposes more restrictions than all but a handful of other states. In addition to those with a gun-related crime on their record, those who are dangerously mentally ill, those who have been treated for alcohol or drug abuse, or certain juvenile offenders, cannot own, possess or control a firearm in Hawaii. Also unlike most states, Hawaii has an imposed ban on certain assault style pistols.

With some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, Hawaii also has the fewest gun deaths per capita of any state in the country. There are 2.8 gun deaths for every 100,000 state residents, far fewer than the national rate of 10.5 deaths per 100,000 people.