Special Report

The States With the Loosest Gun Laws

Firearm background checks, commonly used as a proxy for gun sales, surpassed 18 million through the first seven months of 2022. The year-long total is down by roughly 27% compared to the same period in 2021.

Still, gun sales in most years since 2010 have risen year over year. The issue of gun control is challenging in the United States, not just because so many guns are sold each year, but also because there are an estimated 400 million guns already in the hands of civilians, police, and the military. (Gun sales plunged so far in 2022.)

National laws have been impossible to pass because many people believe gun ownership is a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Gun regulations, therefore, are mostly enacted at the state level. Some states are very strict, while in others people can carry guns in the open. The state with the worst gun laws is Arkansas.

The 27 words of the Second Amendment have been one of the most, if not the most, scrutinized sections of the U.S. Constitution in modern American history. The gun-rights debate usually centers around two phrases in the amendment: “a well regulated Militia,” and “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms.”

Opponents of gun control laws argue the second phrase guarantees the absolute right of individuals to own firearms. Supporters of stricter gun control measures, on the other hand, refer to the first part and argue that the original intention was to restrict Congress from legislating against a state’s right to self defense. The amendment, therefore, does not prohibit local, states, and federal authorities from regulating private firearm ownership.

To determine the state with the worst gun laws, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 2021 Annual Gun Law Scorecard from the Giffords Law Center (led by former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, herself a gun violence victim), which assigned letter grades to states based on the strength and weaknesses of their gun laws and policies. Center attorneys then compared these values to gun death rates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The term “generally,” in the information for some states means in the majority of cases, with some exceptions.

Many states have very loose gun ownership rules. Those with stronger restrictions in place can do little to stem the flow of firearms from less-regulated states. One bill currently before the House Judiciary Committee, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, would even force states with stricter gun laws to accept concealed carry permits issued in states with less stringent laws.

The state with the worst gun laws is Arkansas. Its gun law grade in 2021 was F. The gun death rate of 22.6 per 100,000 people was eighth highest. (See where Arkansas ranks on this list: states where the murder rate is soaring.)

Arkansas is a “shall issue” state, according to the report. This means that local law enforcement must issue a concealed weapons license to any applicant who is 21 years old and over, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and a resident of Arkansas for at least 90 days, among other such criteria. In 2021, Arkansas also repealed its law that required a permit to carry a concealed firearm in public. With this it dropped from ranking 12th worst in 2020 to the worst in 2021.

Click here to see the states with the best and worst gun laws

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