Though the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms. But exactly how far those rights extend – and to whom – has become one of the most polarizing political issues in the United States. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center found that 81% of Democrats and Democratic leaning voters see gun violence as a very big problem, compared to just 38% of Republicans.
Opinions on firearm regulations in the United States vary widely, and firearm restrictions set by the federal government are limited. As a result, most gun policy in the U.S. is set by state and local governments – and perhaps nowhere is the full spectrum of politically-viable viewpoints more clearly demonstrated than in laws enacted at the state level.
In some of the states with the most restrictive gun laws, assault-style weapons sales are restricted and high-capacity magazines are banned. In some of the same places, prospective gun owners must have a valid firearm license and are subject to a mandatory waiting period. Meanwhile, in many other states, none of these regulations exist, and residents are free to carry a firearm, concealed or otherwise, in public places. (This is the law for carrying firearms in public in every state.)
Using Gifford Law Center’s Annual Gun Law Scorecard, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed firearm regulations in each state. States are listed in alphabetical order.
Geographically, states with the most firearm regulations are concentrated in the Northeast and along the West Coast. The states that have adopted a hands off approach, meanwhile, are largely clustered in the South, Midwest, and non-coastal West.
The purpose of gun control control laws is to reduce the likelihood of gun violence. At least some of these laws appear to be working, as more often than not, the states that regulate firearms the most have lower levels of deadly incidents involving firearms. According to 2021 firearm mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seven of the 10 states with the lowest gun death rates are also among the 10 states with the strictest gun control laws. Meanwhile, nine of the 10 states with the highest gun death rates have some of the loosest gun control laws in the country. (Here is a look at the U.S. Senators doing the most to regulate guns.)
It is important to note that the laws noted in this story are not exhaustive and are only broad guidelines. Legal nuances can vary at the state and local levels.
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