The United States has some of the least restrictive gun control laws among similarly wealthy and highly-developed countries. And while state governments also have the authority to regulate firearms, much of the country has adopted a hands-off approach.
Under federal law, fugitives, illicit drug users, and some convicted criminals are prohibited from gun ownership. Though some states have passed legislation that meaningfully expand upon federal firearm regulations, the majority of states have not. In most of these places, citizens are free to purchase firearms without a waiting period, a license, or even a background check in some cases. Additionally, 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. (This is how hard it is to buy a handgun in every state.)
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.
Gun control laws are designed to keep firearms out of the wrong hands, and reduce the likelihood of deadly gun violence, intentional or otherwise. While there are some notable exceptions, many of the states with the loosest gun regulations also have higher than average rates of gun fatalities. According to 2021 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nine of the 10 states with the highest firearm death rates 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. (These are the states where gun deaths are increasing fastest.)
The states on this list are not without some firearm regulations, however minimal. Firearm laws on the books in these states include those designed to prevent children accessing guns in the home and restrictions on ownership for residents with a history of domestic violence.
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.
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