The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms. That right is not without limitations, however. Under federal law, fugitives, illicit drug users and some convicted criminals are prohibited from gun ownership. In addition to these federal restrictions, state governments also have the power to enact and enforce their own gun control legislation. And while some states choose to do so, the vast majority have adopted a hands-off approach.
In just over half of all states, firearms are virtually unregulated beyond federal stipulations. In most of these states, citizens are free to purchase firearms without a waiting period, a license, or even a background check in some cases. Gun owners in most of these states do not need a permit to carry their firearm – concealed or out in the open – in public areas.
Without exception, residents of these states are legally allowed to purchase AR-15 style rifles, also known as assault rifles or modern sporting rifles, equipped with high-capacity magazines. (Here is a look at the most popular semi-automatic rifles in America.)
Using Gifford Law Center’s Annual Gun Law Scorecard, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states with the loosest gun control laws. All 26 states on this list received an F, the lowest possible grade, for their gun control legislation by the gun control advocacy group. States are listed in alphabetical order.
In addition to gun control laws – or lack thereof – we also reviewed data on fatalities involving guns in 2021, the latest year of available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While there are some notable exceptions, many of the states with the lightest gun regulations also have higher than average rates of gun violence. Nine of the 10 states with the highest rates of gun fatalities rank on this list. Meanwhile, New Hampshire is the only state on this list to rank among the 10 states with the lowest gun-related death rates.
While these states have loose gun control laws, they do have some regulation. Each state on this list has some laws intended to reduce the likelihood of gun violence or accidents. These often include regulations designed to prevent children accessing guns in the home and restrictions on ownership for residents with a history of domestic violence. (Here is a look at where criminals in each state are most likely to get guns.)
It is important to note that the laws noted in this story are broad guidelines, and that legal nuances can vary at the state and local levels.
Click here to see the states with the least restrictive gun laws.
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