Best States for Gun Owners in 2014

Best States for Gun Owners in 2014

Civilian firearm ownership is among the most defining aspects of American culture. The freedoms we cherish in the United States simply wouldn't exist without the right to bear arms, and the preservation of liberty thrives on grassroots gun owners.

Unfortunately, the rights of civilians to arm and legally defend themselves are constantly at risk.

Gun laws in the U.S. vary extensively across the map, but geography is not always an accurate predictor of a state's freedom index. Many states in the South and West have taken steps to expand the rights of their citizens during recent legislative sessions. In places like Arizona, Georgia and Kentucky, gun ownership is encouraged and shooting sports are widely popular. In other locations, gun ownership is condemned, heavily regulated and residents have few opportunities to experience the sporting aspects of firearms. States like California, Connecticut and New York have repeatedly illustrated their disregard for individual rights through legislation that restricts the ability of its citizens to purchase and possess firearms.


To examine which states are culturally accepted as the most firearm-friendly territories, G&A interviewed a variety of gun owners at the 2014 NRA Show. Find out where gun owners feel most welcome in the video below, then continue reading to see where your state ranks this year.


Drawing from trusted sources and numerous examples of state-specific legislation and case law, we took a fresh look at the gun laws of every state in America to put things into perspective for 2014.


States were ranked numerically in these five categories

Right-to-Carry

Each state was evaluated on whether it allows individuals to carry handguns, concealed or openly, with or without permits. If permits are issued, we evaluated whether they are issued on a "may issue" or "shall issue" basis and how readily ordinary citizens can obtain them. Close attention was paid to how restrictive state laws were in prohibiting carry in places such as restaurants, banks, parks and the like. In states where open carry is legal, we evaluated whether that right is prevented by municipal ordinances. A "perfect 10" included states such as Arizona and Wyoming, which allow permitless carry but also "shall issue" permits to allow residents to carry in reciprocal states. Scores trended downward from there based on the factors listed previously.

Modern Sporting Rifles (MSR)

We evaluated the types of restrictions states and their respective municipalities place on semiautomatic firearms not regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA). These restrictions include limits on magazine capacity as well as banning or requiring registration based on cosmetic features such as bayonet lugs, pistol grips and folding buttstocks.


NFA

Machine guns, suppressors ("silencers" according to the NFA), short-barreled rifles (SBRs) and shotguns (SBSs), Any Other Weapons (AOWs), and Destructive Devices (DDs) can only be purchased and owned in accordance with NFA laws. States can and do restrict these items in a complicated patchwork of laws across the nation. We examined which states restrict the ownership of NFA items and which do not. States that do not restrict ownership and compel Chief Law Enforcement Officers (CLEOs) to sign licensing documents were given top marks.

Castle Doctrine

English common law established that a man's home is his castle and he has a right to defend it. Laws that regulate the use of force to prevent death, serious bodily injury or forcible crimes vary significantly from state to state. We examined the statutes and case law in each state and ranked them accordingly. States that allowed the use of force, including deadly force, in defense of life were given the highest score if the right applied anywhere someone has a right to be. States that impose a duty to retreat before using force were ranked accordingly, and jurisdictions that severely restrict a citizen's ability to use a firearm in self-defense were given the lowest scores.

Miscellaneous

This category included a variety of substantive issues such as state constitutional provisions, state firearm law preemption, purchase/registration requirements, percentage of gun ownership, shooting range protection statues, availability of ranges and access to the shooting sports. States with a healthy firearms industry presence were noted, as were the attitudes of citizens toward the shooting sports and established shooting ranges.


1. Arizona

Right-to-Carry: 10
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 10
TOTAL: 49

It was a tight race for the top spot, but it came down to the intangibles. The Grand Canyon State takes the top spot again this year, and for good reason. It has the most well-established competitive shooting scene in the nation and a culture that embraces shooters and the shooting sports. Arizona is the home of Gunsite, the nation'™s oldest and best known private shooting school; the 1,650-acre Ben Avery shooting facilty; as well as numerous firearm manufacturers including Ruger. Concealed and open carry are legal without a permit, and the state also issues permits to residents who travel outside the state. CCW permits from all other states are recognized. Arizona does not restrict legally possessed NFA items, magazines or MSRs.

2. Alaska

Right-to-Carry: 10
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 9
TOTAL: 48

As one might expect, Alaska'™s frontier culture and self-reliant residents have fostered a set of statutes that are very gun friendly. Just about the only area of Alaskan law that gun owners could criticize was the state'™s use-of-force statute, but the state legislature rectified that by extending the Castle Doctrine beyond the homes and businesses of Alaskans. Alaska allows for concealed and open carry without a permit and also issues carry permits to residents who wish to obtain them. NFA items and MSRs are unrestricted by state law.

3. Georgia

Right-to-Carry: 9
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 10
TOTAL: 48

As some states are moving to restrict access to firearms, magazines and ammo, Georgia has doubled-down on behalf of gun owners. Governor Nathan Deal recently signed legislation that, among other things, eliminates the state licensing requirement for dealers, simplifies the CCW permit process, strengthens the right to use deadly force, protects gun owners during emergencies, removes the prohibition on carrying concealed handguns in bars and allows permitholders to carry in the non-secure areas of airports. With manufacturers such as Glock, Daniel Defense and Advanced Armament Corp. basing their operations in Georgia, it'™s clear that the state has embraced the shooting industry. When the Rogers Shooting School was chased out of Jacksonville Beach, Florida, decades ago, it was relocated to the rural mountains of Northern Georgia where no one complains about the noise.

4. Utah

Right-to-Carry: 8
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 10
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 9
TOTAL: 47

Open carry is legal in Utah, and the governor recently signed legislation preventing law enforcement officials from citing individuals with disorderly conduct for the sheer act of carrying openly. Permits are issued to both residents and nonresidents for concealed carry, and Utah recognizes the permits of all other states. As in a handful of other states, CLEOs are compelled to sign NFA applications within 15 days, and all NFA items are legal to own and possess. Utah'™s gun industry is home to Barnes Bullets, SilencerCo and the D'™Arcy Echols Rifle Company.

5. Kentucky

Right-to-Carry: 8
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 10
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 9
TOTAL: 47

Kentucky has enacted legislation that allows its residents to electronically file applications for CCW permits, streamlining the process. Residents who have been honorably discharged from the military can waive the training requirements of the carry permit process. Open carry is generally legal, and Kentucky recognizes carry permits from all jurisdictions. All NFA items are legal in Kentucky, and CLEOs have 15 days to approve proper applications under state law.

6. Oklahoma

Right-to-Carry: 8
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 9
TOTAL: 46

After a successful override of the governor'™s veto, Oklahoma is one of five states that compel law enforcement officials to sign NFA documents for citizens that are not disqualified from ownership — CLEOs have 15 days to sign. Oklahoma issues CCL permits for concealed carry and recognizes permits from all issuing states, and its list of prohibited carry locations is short. Oklahomans cannot be prevented from storing firearms in their vehicles while in employer-owned parking lots. The annual Tulsa Gun Show is the largest of its kind in the nation.

7. Wyoming

Right-to-Carry: 10
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 7
Miscellaneous: 9
TOTAL: 45

Wyoming has the highest percentage of gun owners in the nation, at almost 60 percent. Wyoming is one of just four states that allow permitless concealed carry, but only for its residents. The Cowboy State also issues permits so its residents can carry in other jurisdictions, and Wyoming recognizes permits from all issuing states for nonresidents. Wyoming'™s CCW permit exempts residents from NICS checks when purchasing a handgun. Open carry is also legal in Wyoming, and those who do won'™t attract much negative attention. Wyoming does not require a state permit to purchase or possess any category of firearm, and all NFA items are legal in the state. In 2013, Wyoming legalized the use of suppressors for hunting.

8. Montana

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 9
TOTAL: 45

Montana is a hunter'™s paradise, but even gun owners who don'™t hunt can enjoy Big Sky Country'™s favorable laws. Montana is an open carry state and issues permits for residents who desire to carry handguns concealed. Permits from nearly all other jurisdictions in the nation are recognized, and Montana'™s list of prohibited carry locations is one of the least restrictive in the nation. The state places no restrictions on MSRs, NFA items or magazines, and there are no permit requirements to purchase or possesses any firearm. Firearms in the custody of law enforcement due to seizure or recovery cannot be destroyed and must be sold to dealers for public use. Montana'™s Flathead Valley area near Kalispell has developed a flourishing firearms industry, with numerous manufacturers such as Proof Research and custom gunmakers such as the legendary Jerry Fisher locating their operations there.

9. Kansas

Right-to-Carry: 8
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 10
Castle Doctrine: 9
Miscellaneous: 7
TOTAL: 44

Kansas has transitioned from a mediocre state for gun owners to a model for the nation in just a decade. Back in 2003, Kansas did not allow for concealed carry, had no state preemption to protect the public from unreasonable local firearm ordinances and was hostile to many NFA items. With the help of a pro-gun legislature and governor, Kansas has created a framework of laws that respect the rights of its citizens. Kansas is a shall-issue carry permit state with statewide firearm preemption (including open carry) and has strong use-of-force laws. This session, the state lawmakers passed legislation that preempts municipalities from regulating open carry, bans the use of taxpayer funds for 'œbuyback' programs, protects the identity of CCW permittees and requires CLEOs to sign NFA forms within 15 days of their receipt if the applicant does not meet the statutory prohibitions.

10. Florida

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 9
TOTAL: 45

Thanks to a strong NRA-ILA presence in Tallahassee, the 'œGunshine State' has been on the forefront of firearms legislation since the 1980s. Florida led the nation'™s modern trend of 'œshall-issue' carry permits with its landmark 1987 legislation and has continued to move the ball forward for gun owners on issues such as statewide preemption, use-of-force legislation, shooting range protection and even the firearm rights of adoptive parents. Florida does not require a permit to purchase firearms, and there is actually a prohibition on any type of firearm registration with criminal penalties. Florida'™s Stand Your Ground law not only allows individuals to use appropriate deadly force outside of the home, it also prevents civil lawsuits against that individual. There are no restrictions on magazines, MSRs or NFA firearms. Traditionally, Florida'™s more congested metropolitan areas suffered from a lack of available shooting facilities, but the market has responded, and ranges are popping up throughout the state. This year, the Florida Legislature narrowly rejected a proposal that would allow citizens without CCW permits to carry their firearms with them during an emergency evacuation. The Legislature did pass a bill that protects individuals who use firearms to threaten force to defend themselves or others from being sentenced improperly under the state'™s 'œ10-20-Life' statute.

11. Missouri

Right-to-Carry: 8
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 7
TOTAL: 44

The Missouri constitution protects the rights of its citizens 'œto bear arms in defense of home, person and property' and has strong self-defense laws. The Show Me State has a 'œshall-issue' carry permit system and recognizes the CCW permits of all other states. MSRs are not restricted, and only destructive devices are prohibited in the NFA category. Roughly 42 percent of Missouri residents own firearms.

12. Alabama

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 8
TOTAL: 44

Sweet Home Alabama is about as gun-friendly as you'™d expect it to be. A fairly administered 'œmay-issue' carry permit system has been replaced with a true 'œshall-issue' law, and open carry is unlikely to turn any heads outside of a few of metro areas. Alabama has strong use-of-force laws and a culture that respects and encourages the ownership and use of firearms. A decades-old ban on SBRs was removed from the books a couple years back, and there are no restrictions on MSRs. The right of Alabamians to hunt is being placed on this year'™s ballot as an amendment to the state constitution as a further example of the Legislature'™s commitment to the rights of gun owners. Remington\'s recent decision to move significant operations to Huntsville is a classic case of the industry'™s response to the hostile policies of Northeastern states. Remington is being welcomed to Alabama with open arms.

13. South Dakota

Right-to-Carry: 8
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 8
Miscellaneous: 9
TOTAL: 44

With wide-open spaces and plenty of places to shoot, South Dakota has a steeply pro-gun culture and one of the highest gun ownership rates in the nation. Open carry is legal in South Dakota, and concealed carry permits are issued for $10 as long as the candidate meets the minimum statutory requirements. South Dakota is a 'œfull recognition' state, which means that it recognizes permits from all states that issue them (sorry, Vermonters). South Dakota has no restrictions pertaining to MSRs, magazine capacities or NFA items. Suppressors are also allowed for hunting.

14. Texas

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 9
Miscellaneous: 9
TOTAL: 44

Texas has the reputation of being one of the most gun-friendly states in the union, and that stereotype is pretty much on the mark. Texas law does not require any unique licenses to purchase or own firearms, but residents can only purchase long guns from contiguous states (fortunately, the Tulsa Gun Show is in a contiguous state). Carry permits are issued by the Department of Public Safety, and Texas has reciprocal agreements with most states that issue permits. The Lone Star State has a strong self-defense law and does not regulate MSRs or NFA items. From an intangibles standpoint, Texas has a strong firearms and shooting culture with some excellent shooting facilities — it'™s one of the few states where finding a 1,000-yard range isn'™t much of a challenge.

15. South Carolina

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 8
TOTAL: 44

This year, Governor Haley signed legislation reforming the Palmetto State'™s CCW permitting process. This legislation improved the application system as well as removed restaurants from the list of prohibited carry locations. South Carolina does not require a permit to purchase a rifle, shotgun or handgun, and residents can purchase long guns from noncontiguous states. 'œShall-issue' carry permits are issued by the State Law Enforcement Division to residents and selected nonresidents. SC does not regulate MSRs, and federally registered NFA items are legal under state law. About 42 percent of South Carolinians own firearms and FNH-USA has a large facility near the state capital of Columbia.

16. Tennessee

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 10
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 7
TOTAL: 44

The Volunteer State has a proud firearms tradition, and nearly 44 percent of Tennesseans are gun owners. Tennessee has no permit to purchase or registration requirements and does not restrict MSRs or NFA items. Carry permits are 'œshall-issue,' and permitees can carry in restaurants and bars that are not posted (though many do post). This year, the Legislature failed to pass legislation that would have allowed handguns to be carried into state parks. Tennessee has a model 'œCastle Doctrine' law with no duty to retreat.

17. Vermont

Right-to-Carry: 9
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 9
Miscellaneous: 7
TOTAL: 44

Vermont'™s ranking this year is likely to ruffle some feathers. While Vermont is a great state for gun owners by New England standards, it is not the pro-gun utopia plenty of folks purport it to be. Vermont essentially has an absence of firearm regulations, which is as it should be — 'œVermont-style carry' is the goal of many states across the nation. However, if one looks deeper into the culture of the state, Vermont can'™t measure up to some of its neighbors to the South and West. For starters, lack of suppressor ownership takes the state down a peg in the NFA category. A variety of shooting range protection statutes are on the books, but many residents who have relocated from neighboring states vocally resent the location of ranges that have been in operation for decades. Vermont'™s 'œAct 250' growth-management statute can make range improvements difficult, if not impossible, which puts ranges in peril. Finally, if you'™re a Vermonter and want to visit nearby states besides New Hampshire, you must pass through a gauntlet of oppressive gun laws before you reach the freedom of the rest of the nation.

18. Mississippi

Right-to-Carry: 8
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 8
Miscellaneous: 8
TOTAL: 43

The Deep South is gun-friendly territory, and Mississippi is no exception. Mississippi imposes no restrictions or permit requirements on any firearm or accessory, including MSRs and NFA items. Carry permits are 'œshall-issue,' and the state recognizes all permits issued by other states. This year, the Legislature enacted a sales tax 'œholiday' for firearms, ammunition and hunting supplies as well as protected the rights of gun owners during declared emergencies. The legislature also prevented gun owners from being discriminated against by public housing authorities and enacted further protections against local ordinances.

19. North Carolina

Right-to-Carry: 8
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 9
Miscellaneous: 7
TOTAL: 43

North Carolina'™s handgun-purchase permit requirement is antiquated and unnecessary, but the state'™s laws are otherwise in-line with the region. Shall-issue permits are valid for five years and cost $80. North Carolina does not restrict MSRs, but permission from the sheriff is required to obtain a machine gun. Other NFA items such as suppressors and SBRs carry no such requirement. North Carolina does not impose a duty to retreat in order for deadly force to be used.

20. North Dakota

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 8
Castle Doctrine: 8
Miscellaneous: 9
TOTAL: 42

Not only are the people in North Dakota friendly, their laws are friendly to gun owners. North Dakota imposes no unique restrictions on the sale, transfer or ownership of any firearm or accessory, including MSRs or NFA items. Carry permits are issued on a 'œshall-issue' basis, and municipalities are preempted from enacting their own restrictive ordinances concerning firearms. More than half of North Dakotans own firearms, and the vast rural expanses of the state provide plenty of shooting opportunities. During the 2013 legislative session, laws were enacted to allow concealed carry in churches, to allow hunting with suppressors and to protect the rights of gun owners during emergencies.

21. Virginia

Right-to-Carry: 8
MSRs: 8
Class 3/NFA: 8
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 8
TOTAL: 42

Virginia'™s gun laws stand in sharp contrast to those across the Potomac in the nation'™s capital. Virginia is a 'œshall-issue' CCW state, and citizens can carry openly, even in the crowded urban areas of Northern Virginia. Citizens can carry into establishments that serve alcohol as long as they do not imbibe. Virginia does not restrict the ownership of MSRs or other firearms with the exception of 'œStriker 12' or 'œstreet sweeper' shotguns. All NFA-registered firearms and devices are legal in the Commonwealth, but machine guns do need to be registered with the state police. Virginia imposes no duty to retreat in order to use justifiable deadly force, but no presumption of reasonable fear exists within one'™s home in Virginia as it does in states such as Florida.

22. Nevada

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 8
Miscellaneous: 8
TOTAL: 42

With three-quarters of the state'™s population living in a single county, Nevada is a very rural state. Although the state does not register firearms of any type, Clark County (Las Vegas) requires handgun owners to register their handguns if they spend more than 60 days there. No permits are required to acquire or carry rifles or shotguns, and no permit is necessary to purchase a handgun. Open carry is legal in Nevada, even in Las Vegas. Nevada is a 'œshall-issue' state for concealed carry permits, and in 2013 the Legislature deleted a provision that required applicants to qualify with the firearm they intended to carry. Long guns must be carried chamber empty when in vehicles on the highways of the state, but no restrictions on MSRs or magazine capacity are in-statute. Nevada law does not impose a duty to retreat in order to use deadly force, but the threat must be imminent.

23. West Virginia

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 8
Miscellaneous: 8
TOTAL: 42

More than 55 percent of West Virginians are gun owners, which is one of the highest rates in the nation. West Virginia imposes no restrictions on the sale or transfer of firearms beyond what federal law requires — the only time that a permit is required is when carrying a concealed handgun. Carry permits cost $75 and are issued for periods of five years if the applicant meets the statutory requirements. WV places no restrictions on MSRs, magazines or NFA items. For years, the firearm ordinances of four West Virginia cities were grandfathered in by state statute. This year, the Legislature passed a preemption statute that eliminated the ordinances in those four cities. West Virginia does not impose a duty to retreat in cases where deadly force is justified.

24. Indiana

Right-to-Carry: 8
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 8
Castle Doctrine: 8
Miscellaneous: 8
TOTAL: 42

Indiana imposes no state-specific restrictions on the transfer of firearms, and no permits are required except to carry a concealed handgun in public. Carry permits are 'œshall-issue' and are obtained from local law enforcement without training requirements. Indiana recognizes all states'™ permits for nonresidents visiting the state, and open carry is legal with a carry permit. Indiana does not allow possession of SBSs, but all other NFA items are legal. No restrictions are imposed on MSRs or magazines. This year, the Indiana Legislature passed bills that would allow firearms to be locked in vehicles on school campuses under certain circumstances and will prohibit tax dollars from being used for gun 'œbuyback' programs.

25. New Hampshire

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 8
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 7
TOTAL: 42

The Live Free or Die state is notably free when it comes to gun ownership. New Hampshire imposes no laws more restrictive than the federal statues when it comes to the purchase, sale or transfer of any firearm. New Hampshire is one of the only 'œshall-issue' concealed carry states in the Northeast, and residents are issued permits for only $10, while nonresidents pay $100. Long guns cannot be transported in a vehicle while loaded, but no other restrictions are imposed on non-NFA rifles or shotguns. New Hampshire has a Stand Your Ground law that imposes no duty to retreat on citizens defending themselves with deadly force. The worst thing for gun owners in New Hampshire (around a third of the state'™s population) is their proximity to so many states with strict gun control laws. Great caution must be taken when transporting firearms, ammo and magazines outside of the state. A bill that would have required universal background checks was defeated in the state legislature.

26. Wisconsin

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 8
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 7
TOTAL: 42

Thanks to vetoes by former Governor Doyle, Wisconsin was one of the last states to enact a concealed carry statute, but it passed a very good law — it not only allows for concealed carry, it also strengthens the ability for citizens to carry openly. Wisconsin imposes a 48-hour waiting period on handgun purchases that does not exempt carry permit holders. Wisconsin recognizes the permits of all states with similar statutory requirements. Though curiously written, state law allows for NFA items in accordance with the federal act. This year, the state lifted its ban on the purchase of long guns in noncontiguous states and enhanced its range protection statute to protect ranges from both noise and zoning ordinances. Wisconsin has strong use-of-force laws. Nearly 45 percent of Wisconsin'™s residents own firearms.

27. Louisiana

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 7
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 7
TOTAL: 41

A self-proclaimed 'œSportsman'™s Paradise,' Louisiana is a gun-friendly state where open carry is legal. Louisiana does not require permits to purchase any category of firearm. Carry permits are issued by the Department of Public Safety as long as the statutory requirements are met. Concealed handguns cannot be carried in bars or restaurants that serve alcohol, though a bill is currently being considered that would repeal the ban. Employees cannot be prohibited by their employers from storing firearms in their vehicles on company property as long as the firearm is secured and the vehicle is locked. An effort to repeal the state'™s Stand Your Ground law is currently before the legislature. The state preempts local ordinances from passing restrictions relating to firearms, but ordinances in place prior to 1985 were grandfathered in.

28. Michigan

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 5
TOTAL: 41

In a state thick with hunters, 38 percent of Michigan residents are gun owners. Michigan requires a permit in order to purchase a handgun, and handguns must be registered, though CCW permit holders are exempt from the permit requirement. No permit is required to purchase a long gun, and no restrictions are imposed against MSRs. This year, Michigan lifted its ban on short-barreled long guns, though if they are shorter than 26 inches overall, they must be registered with the state as pistols. Michigan law requires gun owners to report a firearm stolen within 24 hours. CCW permits are 'œshall-issue,' but the list of prohibited places is fairly extensive.

29. Oregon

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 8
Miscellaneous: 7
TOTAL: 41

Oregon is one of few states that allows individuals with a single nonviolent felony to possess a firearm 15 years after their sentence is complete. There are no permits to purchase or registration requirements in Oregon. Both case law and statute establish that there is no duty to retreat before using deadly force in Oregon. State law in Oregon requires individuals transferring firearms at gun shows to conduct a background check, but that requirement does not apply to private sales elsewhere. Oregon imposes no restrictions on NFA items or MSRs and has no limit on magazine capacity.

30. Idaho

Right-to-Carry: 8
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 4
Miscellaneous: 9
TOTAL: 40

Idaho does not restrict MSRs, magazines or NFA firearms, and hunting with a suppressor is legal. There are no permit or registration requirements for handguns or long guns, and there is no registration scheme for any firearm. Other than a weak and confusing self-defense statute, Idaho has very favorable laws for gun owners. Carry permits are 'œshall-issue,' and out-of-state permits are recognized as long as the permit is in the individual'™s possession. The Idaho Legislature passed legislation this year that will allow certain permittees to carry their firearms on college campuses.

31. Pennsylvania

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 8
Miscellaneous: 6
TOTAL: 40

Geographically and culturally, the Keystone State bridges the gap between the Eastern Seaboard and the Midwest. Pennsylvania has a deeply rooted hunting culture and one of the highest numbers of NRA members in the nation. Though Pennsylvania has a state firearm preemption statute, 50 municipalities have enacted various gun control ordinances. The transfer or sale of a handgun, even among private parties, must pass through a dealer and requires a background check. No state restrictions are in place for MSRs or magazines, and all NFA items other than 'œbombs' are legal as long as they'™re owned in compliance with federal law. The carrying of firearms can be restricted during an emergency, and the City of Philadelphia is known as being unfriendly to citizens carrying firearms. PA is a 'œshall-issue' concealed carry state with fairly broad reciprocity. Pennsylvania has enacted a Stand Your Ground law that does not require citizens to retreat before using deadly force.

32. Maine

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 5
Miscellaneous: 8
TOTAL: 39

When it comes to gun owners, Maine'™s rural culture contrasts sharply with its Northeasterly location. Other than being a 'œduty to retreat' state, Maine has favorable gun laws. Maine doesn'™t require a permit to purchase a firearm and doesn'™t restrict MSRs or magazines. NFA firearms are allowed subject to federal law, and carry permits are of the 'œshall-issue' variety. Open carry is legal in Maine, and state employees can store their guns locked in their cars while at work. State law preempts local restrictions of firearms, and Maine has a range protection statute in place. An effort to allow for permitless concealed carry law in the State Senate this session after passing the House.

33. Arkansas

Right-to-Carry: 6
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 5
Miscellaneous: 8
TOTAL: 38

State law does not require permits to purchase firearms, and registration is not required. Arkansas issues concealed carry permits to all qualified applicants, and the state has permit reciprocity with numerous other right-to-carry states. Property owners can restrict where firearms are carried with adequate signage, and a fairly expansive list of prohibited places is specified in the state statute. Arkansas does not restrict MSRs, magazines or NFA items. Arkansas is a 'œduty to retreat' state unless the individual using deadly force is in his own home.

34. Nebraska

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 5
Miscellaneous: 7
TOTAL: 38

The Cornhusker State requires a certificate to purchase a handgun, even from a private individual other than a close relative. 'œShall-Issue' carry permits are issued to applicants within five days of a successful background check. The state'™s carry law has a long list of places where carry is prohibited, but Nebraska did amend the law to recognize permits from several other states, and the law is preemptive of local ordinances. Nebraska has no restrictions on MSRs, magazines or NFA items. This session, the Unicameral Legislature passed bills protecting the rights of gun owners in a declared emergency as well as allowing Nebraskans to purchase long guns in non-contiguous states. Nebraska law requires citizens to attempt retreat before using deadly force outside of their homes. Outside of metropolitan areas such as Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska is a state with a pro-gun culture and proud sporting traditions.

35. New Mexico

Right-to-Carry: 5
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 5
Miscellaneous: 8
TOTAL: 37

Traditionally a friendly state for gun owners, an attempt to ban the private transfer of firearms during this year'™s 'œbudget only' legislative session failed. New Mexico allows citizens to carry concealed handguns in a vehicle, even if the individual does not have a carry permit. Carry permits are obtainable on a 'œshall-issue' basis with a fee of $100. Long guns can be stored in a vehicle loaded with or without a permit. New Mexico does not restrict MSRs or magazines, and NFA items can be legally possessed. State law preempts local jurisdictions from restricting the right to bear arms, though the Santa Fe City Council did recently consider a magazine capacity restriction — it failed. A relatively weak self-defense law is one of the only factors making New Mexico a less attractive destination for gun owners. The Whittington Center in Raton is a shooter'™s paradise.

36. Ohio

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 7
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 7
Miscellaneous: 7
TOTAL: 37

The home of Camp Perry does not require permits to purchase any category of firearm, and guns are not registered by the state. Ohioans can only purchase long guns in states contiguous to Ohio. Concealed carry permits are issued under a 'œshall-issue' law, and Ohio selectively recognizes other states'™ permits. Permit holders can carry in restaurants in Ohio as long as they don'™t consume alcohol and the establishment has not posted a sign prohibiting the carry of firearms. Certain jurisdictions restrict MSRs, such as the City of Cincinnati, but those restrictions are unlawful according to the state'™s preemption statute. It is unlawful in Ohio to equip a semiautomatic firearm with a magazine that holds more than 30 rounds, though it'™s not illegal to merely own or possess the magazine. All registered NFA items can be legally possessed in Ohio under state law. Ohio'™s self-defense law does not require a duty to retreat either inside or outside a citizen'™s home.

37. Washington

Right-to-Carry: 6
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 4
Castle Doctrine: 10
Miscellaneous: 6
TOTAL: 36

Washington requires a waiting period of five business days when a handgun is purchased unless the resident has a valid carry permit. An application is required in order to purchase a handgun but not a rifle or a shotgun. Concealed carry permits are valid for five years and cost $36. Permits from 13 other states are recognized, and Washington'™s list of prohibited carry locations is short but includes schools and bars. Open carry is legal, with certain exceptions. Case law has established that there is no 'œduty to retreat' before using deadly force in Washington. There are no restrictions on MSRs or magazines, but machine guns and SBSs are prohibited. Washington'™s governor recently signed legislation that lifted the state'™s ban on SBRs.

38. Iowa

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 1
Castle Doctrine: 8
Miscellaneous: 7
TOTAL: 33

Handgun permits are required and issued by county sheriffs in the Hawkeye State. No permit is required to purchase a long gun, and there is no firearm registration in Iowa. The state does not restrict MSRs or magazines, but long guns must be disassembled or cased unloaded while in a vehicle on a highway. Permits to carry concealed handguns are issued on a 'œshall-issue' basis and are valid for five years. Iowa recognizes carry permits from all states that issue them, and handguns can be carried into restaurants. State law prohibits nearly all NFA items. Several pro-gun measures such as the legalization of registered suppressors and a Castle Doctrine bill have passed the Iowa House but have died in the State Senate.

39. Minnesota

Right-to-Carry: 6
MSRs: 6
Class 3/NFA: 3
Castle Doctrine: 8
Miscellaneous: 7
TOTAL: 30

Minnesota is one of several states in the Midwest where gun laws are more restrictive than one would assume. In addition, Minnesota is among a handful of states that do not protect the right to bear arms in their state constitution. The purchase of handguns and MSRs requires a seven-day waiting period unless a permit is obtained; even then, a waiting period may apply at the discretion of law enforcement officials. Carry permits are issued on a 'œshall-issue' basis, and property owners can prohibit carry on their premises by posting a sign. MSRs are legal to own, subject to the purchase requirements stated previously, and there are no capacity limits on magazines. Suppressors cannot be owned, and other NFA items must be registered with the state.

40. Colorado

Right-to-Carry: 7
MSRs: 4
Class 3/NFA: 9
Castle Doctrine: 6
Miscellaneous: 3
TOTAL: 29

The Colorado Legislature passed significant gun control legislation during the 2013 session. Magazines that hold more that 15 rounds are illegal unless they were possessed prior to July 1, 2013, and these mags cannot be legally sold or transferred within the state. Shotguns cannot hold more than eight rounds. This legislation also banned the private transfer of firearms without background checks, even among friends while shooting or hunting. An effort to repeal this legislation was unsuccessful, though the legislature did overturn the law requiring Coloradans to purchase long guns only in contiguous states. Colorado has a 'œshall-issue' concealed carry law and allows for ownership of NFA firearms and suppressors in accordance with federal law. Hunters can use suppressors afield.

41. Illinois

Right-to-Carry: 6
MSRs: 8
Class 3/NFA: 2
Castle Doctrine: 9
Miscellaneous: 3
TOTAL: 28

With the passage of a 'œshall-issue' concealed carry law that was mandated by the courts, Illinois'™ legal landscape shifted significantly in the favor of gun owners. Permits are issued to residents and nonresidents. However, Illinois does not recognize permits from other states. The list of prohibited places for carry permit holders is fairly extensive and includes bars, parks, libraries and public transportation, to name a few. Firearm purchase or possession in Illinois requires a Firearms Owner ID (FOID) card issued by the state police, and a mandatory waiting period is required for firearm purchases. There are essentially two sets of gun laws in Illinois: those that apply to Chicago and those that apply to the remainder of the state. While Chicago'™s laws are very restrictive, actual state laws are less so. MSRs are legal outside of Chicago, but nearly all NFA items are prohibited. The World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta, Illinois, is one of the most impressive public shooting facilities in the nation — WSRC'™s 3 1/2 miles of trap fields are home to the Grand American Trap Shooting Championships.

42. Delaware

Right-to-Carry: 5
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 1
Castle Doctrine: 8
Miscellaneous: 3
TOTAL: 27

Residents of Delaware may only obtain long guns from contiguous states, but permits and registration are not required. Long guns must be unloaded when transported in vehicles, and a permit is required to carry a concealed handgun regardless of whether it is loaded. Delaware is, perhaps surprisingly, an open-carry state, though questionable city ordinances have been an issue. Delaware does not allow the possession of registered machine guns, suppressors, SBSs or destructive devices. SBRs and AOWs are legal. There are no restrictions on MSRs or magazine capacity.

43. Rhode Island

Right-to-Carry: 4
MSRs: 10
Class 3/NFA: 0
Castle Doctrine: 6
Miscellaneous: 2
TOTAL: 22

A state application must be completed when purchasing a long gun — even from an individual — in the state of Rhode Island. Purchase of a handgun requires a state-issued safety card that establishes proof of certain training requirements. Rhode Island is a 'œmay-issue' carry state, and a permit is required to carry or transport a handgun, with certain exceptions. Rhode Island does not restrict MSRs or magazine capacity, but all NFA items except for SBRs are prohibited.

44. Maryland

Right-to-Carry: 4
MSRs: 3
Class 3/NFA: 6
Castle Doctrine: 5
Miscellaneous: 1
TOTAL: 19

Though Maryland lies below the Mason-Dixon line, it has adopted gun laws more similar to the Northeast than to its neighbors to the south. Maryland'™s state constitution does not guarantee a right to keep and bear arms. The law also requires a license to purchase a handgun, and all handguns must be registered. State law prohibits the possession, sale and transfer of many MSRs, and transfer of any firearm must pass through a dealer. Handguns made after 1985 must appear on an approved state roster to be sold in the state of Maryland, so many handgun models are unavailable. Carry permits in Maryland are difficult to obtain and are rarely issued — an appellate court overturned a ruling that would have compelled the state to issue permits to qualified applicants. Magazine capacity is limited to 10 rounds except for tubular rimfire mags. NFA firearms and suppressors can be legally obtained, but machine guns must be registered with the state as well as the ATF.

45. Connecticut

Right-to-Carry: 5
MSRs: 1
Class 3/NFA: 2
Castle Doctrine: 7
Miscellaneous: 0
TOTAL: 15

Connecticut has imposed serious restrictions on firearm ownership in the past two years. While not exactly a gun-friendly state before, the Connecticut Legislature passed some very restrictive legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. An 'œeligibility certificate' is required to purchase a long gun, and a permit is required to so much as transport a handgun from one'™s home to the range. Carry permits are available, and they are actually issued, unlike most nearby states. MSRs must be registered, as do magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds. Possession of an unregistered magazine that holds more than 10 rounds is a felony. Machine guns must be registered annually with the state, and suppressors cannot be owned. Connecticut has a shooting range protection law that protects ranges from noise lawsuits, but the range must have been in operation before October 1998.

46. California

Right-to-Carry: 2
MSRs: 2
Class 3/NFA: 1
Castle Doctrine: 6
Miscellaneous: 1
TOTAL: 12

California has plenty of things going for it, but good gun laws are not among them. MSRs are heavily regulated, and handguns must be registered and on an 'œapproved' list. Issuance of carry permits varies from fairly common to downright impossible depending on the county sheriff'™s discretion. Magazines are limited to 10 rounds unless they were grandfathered, while machine guns and suppressors are no-gos. The only NFA firearms that can be obtained are AOWs and C&R SBRs and SBSs. All firearm transactions, even among private citizens, must be done through a dealer and require a background check, after which a 10-day waiting period applies. As if things weren'™t bad enough, San Francisco and Sunnyvale enacted bans on the possession of magazines over 10 rounds this April — not even off-duty cops are exempt.

47. Hawaii

Right-to-Carry: 2
MSRs: 3
Class 3/NFA: 0
Castle Doctrine: 4
Miscellaneous: 2
TOTAL: 11

If you head to Hawaii, say Aloha to your guns. For such a laid-back place, Hawaii has some very stringent firearm laws and the lowest gun ownership rate of any of the 50 states. Permits to purchase and registration are required for all firearms — even ammo must be registered. Carry permits are issued based upon the showing of need and are only valid in the county in which they were issued. Magazines are limited to 10 rounds, and all NFA items are prohibited. During times of emergency, the state government can suspend gun sales and seize firearms and ammunition. Hawaii'™s Senate has passed a bill to streamline the registration process for firearms, but the House has yet to take it up as of this writing.

48. Massachusetts

Right-to-Carry: 3
MSRs: 1
Class 3/NFA: 0
Castle Doctrine: 5
Miscellaneous: 0
TOTAL: 9

The place where Americans first took up arms against our oppressors from across the pond is now one of the most difficult states in the union in which to legally bear arms. The Massachusetts Legislature didn'™t pass any anti-gun bills this year because there isn'™t much left to pass. Firearm owners are licensed, and permits to purchase must be secured before obtaining any firearm in the Bay State. Even ammunition, magazines and airguns are subject to state regulation and the associated purchase requirements. MSRs are subject to one of the oldest bans in the country and must have been registered back in 1989. Magazines are limited to 10 rounds for rifles and handguns, and NFA items are a no-go.

49. New Jersey

Right-to-Carry: 2
MSRs: 1
Class 3/NFA: 2
Castle Doctrine: 2
Miscellaneous: 0
TOTAL: 7

A Firearm Purchaser Identification Card (FID) is required to buy, sell, gift or receive a long gun in the Garden State. One cannot even possess a handgun outside of a few designated areas unless a carry permit has been issued. Carry permits are of the 'œmay-issue' variety and are not easily obtained unless one can demonstrate an 'œurgent necessity for carrying guns for self-protection.' Unfortunately, merely driving through places such as Camden and Newark does not meet the 'œurgent need' standard of the courts. Ownership of MSRs purchased after May 1, 1990, requires a court-issued license, as does owning an NFA-registered machine gun. The current magazine capacity limit in New Jersey is 15 rounds, though the Legislature is poised to pass legislation that would lower that restriction to 10 rounds. Suppressors cannot be owned in New Jersey.

50. New York

Right-to-Carry: 2
MSRs: 1
Class 3/NFA: 0
Castle Doctrine: 3
Miscellaneous: 0
TOTAL: 6

April 15, 2014, saw the deadline for registration of firearms deemed 'œassault weapons' under the 2013 'œSAFE Act.' One of the most restrictive gun control schemes in the nation became slightly less restrictive when a judge tossed out the ban on magazines holding more than seven rounds as 'œarbitrary.' Ownership of MSRs is tightly regulated in N.Y., and magazine capacities are limited to 10 rounds. The purchase of a handgun requires a license, the issue of which is solely at the discretion of the issuing authority — these licenses also restrict where the purchaser can possess a handgun. Licenses to carry a concealed firearm are issued on a 'œmay-issue' basis and are difficult to obtain, especially in New York City. Loaded rifles or shotguns cannot be transported in vehicles. NFA items are strictly forbidden.

51. Washington, D.C.

Right-to-Carry: 0
MSRs: 0
Class 3/NFA: 0
Castle Doctrine: 0
Miscellaneous: 0
TOTAL: 0

While our leaders are protected by legions of heavily armed police, ordinary citizens of our nation'™s capital are routinely deprived of their rights by a weave of gun control laws. There is no better case to describe the outright absurdity of D.C.'™s gun laws than the 2014 conviction of a man for possessing a dud shotgun shell and an empty .270 Winchester cartridge case in his home. Residents of D.C. must register all rifles and shotguns with Metropolitan Police, and ammunition can only be purchased for those registered firearms. There is no method of obtaining a permit to carry a handgun in D.C. short of becoming a police officer. Magazine capacity is restricted to 10 rounds, except for tubular magazines on rimfire rifles. Gun owners should think twice about even passing through D.C., where a forgotten cartridge or magazine in a vehicle can lead to serious charges.

Editor's note: State-specific gun laws are a complicated, frustrating and fluid subject. We have consulted sources such as the National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation and state and law enforcement agencies to compile these rankings. Some states are very hazy on certain statutes, so our data reflects those confusions with general statements based on our understanding of the law. All information is current as of May 21, 2014.

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