With an estimated 433.9 million firearms as of 2020, according to industry advocacy group the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the United States leads the world in civilian gun ownership by a wide margin. The ubiquity of guns in the United States is attributable in part to the nation’s gun laws, which are among the least restrictive in the world. (Here is a look at how many guns Americans bought every year since 1986.)
Beyond guaranteeing the right to gun ownership — with some restrictions for minors and convicted felons — the federal government does little to regulate firearm sales in the United States. As a result, the majority of gun control legislation is enacted at the state level. And while many states have taken the initiative to tighten regulations, often in the form of mandatory waiting periods, owner licensing, and more comprehensive background check procedures, most have not.
In over half of all states, virtually anyone who has not been convicted of a violent hate crime or domestic violence can walk into a gun store and leave with any type of firearm in a matter of minutes.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed state-level gun laws, compiled by the Giffords Law Center, a gun violence prevention group, to identify the states where anyone can get a gun today. In each of the 28 states on this list, there are no waiting periods, safety training requirements, or licensing procedures for the purchase of any type of firearm. Additionally, none of these states have expanded federal background check laws, which have a loophole allowing for unlicensed sellers to transfer firearms without conducting a background check.
While federal law imposes some age restrictions on firearm purchases, transfers, and possession, we also reviewed state-level age restrictions – if any – in each of the states on this list. (Here is a look at the law for carrying firearms in public in every state.)
With virtually no restrictions on who can purchase or possess a firearm beyond age, guns appear more likely to fall into the wrong hands in most of the states on this list than in states with more restrictive gun laws. In 21 of the 28 states on this list, the annual firearm death rate is in the top 50th percentile among all states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, nine of the 10 states with the highest firearm death rate appear on this list.
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