August 18, 2022
Despite gun control being a central campaign issue for President Joe Biden, action at the federal level has yet to occur as of this report. In the wake of the tragic school shooting on May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas, that may change. As in most years, the impactful changes are happening at the state level. Thanks to our founder’s framework of democracy, each state chooses its own path in terms of most gun laws. As Guns & Ammo does every year, each state is put into perspective by reviewing the gun-related policies. We then rank them accordingly for our annual “Best States for Gun Owners.” The difference between the lowest- and highest-ranked states is significant. In some areas, gun ownership is heavily regulated and culturally unpopular; safe and legal places to shoot are few. Elsewhere, state laws are accommodating, and the sight of a firearm is a non-issue.
U.S. states are moving into two categories, primarily. They are either becoming increasingly restrictive of the rights of gun owners or making clear support for the Second Amendment. This has made effectively ranking the states more difficult and subjective. As in 2021’s rankings, there is a five-way tie for first place if we only consider the raw points. (Third place was an eight-way tie!) One might disagree over the sequence of the top or bottom states in the rankings, but our goal is to make comparisons that are as objective as possible. However, practically, any state close to the top half of G&A’s ratings is a great place for gun owners.
Some readers may decide that G&A is a political advocate. The reality is that gun control has become an incredibly partisan issue. Generally, Republican-controlled legislatures are less likely to enact gun-control laws than states under Democrat control. There are pro-gun-elected Democrats in office, though, in addition to anti-gun Republicans. Some of those realities are noted where they exist.
To calculate the score, we evaluate each state numerically in each of five categories: Right-To-Carry/CCW; access to “Black Rifles”; the states’ use-of-force laws (i.e., Castle Doctrine); the prohibition of items regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA); and a catchall Miscellaneous column. States are awarded 0 to 10 points in each category and ranked according to their total number of points. Ties are common in these rankings, so the intangibles of “shooting culture” are considered toward the final outcome.
RTC is evaluated using the criteria applied in Guns & Ammo’s “Best States for Concealed Carry” rankings: Standard for issuance, training requirements, cost, reciprocity and the extent of locations where licensees are prohibited from carrying. May-issue states that rarely issue permits are graded accordingly and can receive 1 to 6 points, depending on standard review factors. Shall-issue states that require a permit be issued so long as the applicant is qualified are given 6 to 8 points. A state with legal permitless or “Constitutional” carry alone — there is only one — receive 9 points, whereas states that both issue permits and allow citizens to carry without one are given a full 10-point score. States that issue permits and allow for permitless carry for residents only are given 91/2 points. Open-carry laws are considered under the miscellaneous column and are used as a tiebreaker.
This category examines whether a state regulates or bans firearms based on appearance or mechanical characteristics. Examples would be bans on so-called “assault weapons.” These laws often require registration of certain firearms and, in some states, ban ownership altogether. G&A’s rankings reflect whether a state regulates any category of firearm by its features or limits the capacity of magazines. This category is more or less binary; states either score very well or poorly.
National Firearms Act (NFA)
The NFA regulates the sale, transfer and possession of machine guns, suppressors — which are called “silencers” in the law — short-barreled rifles (SBR), short-barreled shotguns (SBS), Any Other Weapons (AOW) and Destructive Devices (DD). This federal statute allows states to further restrict these items. (We use the term “items” since suppressors are not firearms but are covered under the NFA.) Some states ban their ownership altogether or piecemeal, so we rank each state based on a sliding scale of regulations.
The term “Castle Doctrine” has become shorthand for a state’s use-of-force laws. Some states require citizens to retreat before the use of deadly force is authorized. We rank states based on the right to use force both inside and outside of homes and businesses. We award maximum points to states that allow the use of force wherever a person has a legal right to protect themselves and citizens from both criminal and civil liability if appropriate force is used. This year we studied this complex topic deeper and, in some cases, recalibrated scores based on a fair comparison with other states.
“Miscellaneous” is the most subjective category in this survey, but it allowed us leeway in our ability to quantify the culture and environment in a given state. We used this column to track preemption statutes as well as laws and rules that fall outside of other buckets. The availability of places to shoot is also taken into consideration. States with thriving competitive-shooting communities are recognized here, and states with laws that allow for gun confiscation without due process, i.e., “Red Flag” laws, are penalized. Firearm-preemption laws, which restrict local governments form imposing their own gun laws or rules, are important to gun owners. These also contribute to a state’s Miscellaneous score.
2021 VS. 2022: ■ = Same (-) = Worse (+) = Better
■ 51. New York
Other than Governor Cuomo’s hasty departure from office, there was little for gun owners to celebrate in the Empire State until the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on NYSRPA v. Bruen, that is likely to expand the rights of New Yorkers to obtain permits to carry a handgun. (This will likely affect gun owners across the nation.) Before this ruling, the state had a highly restrictive “may-issue” system. New York also bans full-capacity magazines, various semiautomatics and all NFA items. State law mandates a duty to retreat when outside the home, which favors the aggressor over the victim. It could get worse, too. A mandatory storage bill that would impose felony penalties for violations has advanced from the Senate Committee.
■ 50. Hawaii
Hawaii may be a tropical paradise, but that description does not extend to the states’ gun laws. Hawaii remains the most-restrictive state in the nation when it comes to issuing carry permits. Though state law does allow for their issuance, none have been granted for several years, meaning that there are no valid permits at this point. Purchasing a handgun — even from a private party — requires a background check, a permit to purchase and registration. In 2022, the duration of purchase permits was extended from 10 days to 30, a small step in the right direction. Hawaii restricts semiautos, NFA items and even “assault pistols.” Use-of-force laws are weak here. The state does have a strong hunting culture though.
- 49.New Jersey
Despite his best efforts, Governor Phil Murphy’s gun-control package fell apart in 2021. A .50-caliber ban, mandatory storage, ammo registration and manufacturer liability bills all failed to advance. Still, the Garden State remains unfriendly to gun owners. Black guns and NFA items are prohibited. Use-of-force laws are weak and only 1,000 carry permits have been issued to the state’s nearly 9-million residents.
- 48. California
Terrible gun laws are just one reason why Californians are leaving the state in mass. (Many hope that they leave their state’s policies behind, too.) A variety of bad bills are working their way through the Assembly, and the city of San Jose imposed the nation’s first gun tax in February 2022. The state’s magazine ban was briefly overturned by the courts, but that decision was reversed — at least for now. Carry permit issuance varies by county and only 0.3 percent of Californians have them. Black rifles are banned and NFA items are banned or heavily restricted. California doesn’t have a stand-your ground law, but the penal code’s jury instructions do not impose a duty to retreat, gaining the state six points in that category.
+ 47. Massachusetts
Last year, at least one reader wrote G&A arguing that this list was unfair to Massachusetts, and he made some great points. With facts in hand, the state’s score was boosted slightly in the RTC and Miscellaneous categories. Compared to much of the U.S., though, it remains more of an anti-gun environment. In 2021, Massachusetts considered legislation so draconian that Smith & Wesson was forced to move its major operations to Tennessee. Currently, magazines are limited to 10 rounds and no NFA items are legal to possess or own. The Commonwealth receives 4 points in the RTC column since the state’s may-issue permit system does issue permits, around 500,000 currently. A permit also streamlines the future purchase of a handgun. There is a duty to retreat in Massachusetts where one must “do everything reasonable in the circumstances to avoid physical combat before resorting to force,” which costs it points in the Castle Doctrine category.
■ 46. District of Columbia (D.C.)
The environment for gun owners in our nation’s capital is better than it was just a few years ago. Carry permits are available on a shall-issue basis, though the process isn’t simple. D.C. receives 0 points in the Black Rifle and NFA categories, and its use-of-force laws are weak. There is effectively no gun culture in D.C. There is no industry presence and no public ranges. For these reasons, many gun owners choose to live on the Virginia side of the Potomac.
■ 45. Connecticut
In 2022, bills that would have improved the state’s use-of-force laws were defeated, but no anti-gun bills passed either. Carry permits are obtainable on a may-issue basis and nearly 8 percent of Connecticuters have them. Suppressors are legal to own — though prohibited for hunting — but most black guns are not. Magazines that hold more than 10 rounds are restricted, too. Use-of-force laws are relatively strong, which gains the state 7 points.
■ 44. Maryland
Maryland operates under a tough may issue carry permit system; only 0.4 percent of residents possess them. Maryland’s NFA laws earn the state 6 points.
Black guns are severely restricted and use-of-force laws are average at best. The shooting culture varies depending on geography. It’s worth nothing that America’s greatest firearm-depicting novelist, Stephen Hunter, resides in Baltimore.
■ 43. Rhode Island
Rhode Island is a may-issue state where only 0.2 percent of residents have permits to carry. Black guns and magazines are not restricted, but NFA items are prohibited for anyone other than dealers. There is a duty to retreat when outside the home, which costs the state points in the Castle Doctrine category. Things could get far worse as more than 20 anti-gun bills are being considered by the legislature at this time, including mandatory storage, range bans and ammo registration. Semiauto and mag-ban bills have also been carried over from the 2021 legislative session. If these bills pass, the state’s score will take a big hit in 2023.
■ 42. Delaware
President Biden’s home state is a mixed bag for gun owners. A bill that would have restricted magazines to 17 rounds was defeated in 2021. Delaware has issued carry permits to 2.6 percent of its residents and honors the permits of 21 other states. Most NFA items, including machine guns and suppressors, are prohibited. Delaware has good use-of-force laws that include liability protections, which gains the state 8 points.
- 41. Washington
Life for Washington’s gun owners became worse when Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill on March 23, 2022, that banned magazines holding more than 10 rounds. This move costs the state significant points in the Black Gun category, adding to the restrictions and training requirements on the ownership of semiautomatic rifles, which became law in 2019. Washington has a good preemption statute that is often tested by its anti-gun cities and towns. Washington is a shall-issue concealed-carry state, but reciprocity is weak.
■ 40. Colorado
Colorado is marching steadily in the wrong direction. In July 2021, Colorado’s governor signed legislation gutting the state’s preemption law. This allows local governments to impose their own gun-control ordinances, which could be a disaster for law-abiding gun owners. In 2022, the legislature banned open carry at polling places. Currently, black guns are legal in the state but magazines holding more than 15 rounds are restricted. Colorado has a shall-issue CCW statute and 11 percent of residents have been issued permits.
+ 39. Illinois
In 2022, Illinois passed legislation banning “ghost guns”, i.e., homemade firearms. The state issues permits to both residents and non-residents on a shall-issue basis with no reciprocity. According to U.S. Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), 3.4 percent of the population has been issued a permit. Black rifles and magazines are unrestricted by statute but are regulated in certain areas of the state. Illinois has surprisingly strong use-of-force laws, but it earns minimal points in the NFA category thanks to a ban on suppressors, machine guns and short-barreled shotguns.
■ 38. Minnesota
Minnesota has an ideological split between its two legislative chambers, and the Senate has prevented various anti-gun measures from becoming law. Republicans expect to take back the House in the 2022 elections, providing further protections. Under the state’s shall-issue system, 6.7 percent of Minnesotans hold carry permits, a significant jump from last year. Permits from 15 other states are also honored. There is a transferee permit requirement for many black guns, costing it points in that column. Use-of-force laws include a duty to retreat.
■ 37. Vermont
An omnibus bill was vetoed and later signed by the state’s Republican governor, imposing additional restrictions on Vermonters’ gun rights. On the other hand, as this article was drafted, Governor Phil Scott signed a bill legalizing suppressor use for hunting. The state was about a century ahead of the nation’s permitless carry laws, which earns it 9 points in the CCW category. State statues place limits on magazine capacity, costing it points in the Black Rifle category. Use-of-force laws are strong in the Green Mountain State and violent crime is all but nonexistent.
- 36. Oregon
No meaningful gun legislation was passed during Oregon’s short legislative session as it becomes increasingly far Left. However, various anti-gun ballot initiatives are underway. In June 2021, Governor Kate Brown signed a bill into law that imposed mandatory storage requirements for firearms in homes and vehicles, banned carry at numerous locations for license holders and doubled the fee to obtain a carry permit. CCW continues to be on a shall-issue basis, but there is no reciprocity for non-residents. For now, the state maintains its 10-point rankings in both the Black Gun and NFA columns. Though there isn’t a stand your ground law on the books, the courts have imposed a no duty to retreat policy.
+ 35. Virginia
The political situation shifted dramatically in the Commonwealth in 2021 when Republicans regained control of the House of Delegates and the Governor’s mansion. Virginians can take a breath, though some previous damage remains: Virginia has a “one-gun-a-month” law on the books, though residents with carry permits are exempt. Private transfers were effectively eliminated in 2020 and a Red Flag confiscation program was created. One of the nation’s last Blue Laws was rolled back in 2022 when Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed legislation allowing for Sunday hunting on public lands. The state continues to have a strong RTC law and recognizes the permits of 48 states.
- 34. New Mexico
An attempt to impose a 15-round mag
ban in New Mexico failed during the 2022 legislative session. This left the status quo in place for gun owners. The state’s CCW law isn’t the strongest, but permits are issued on a shall-issue basis. Open carry is generally legal in the state. There is no stand-your ground law on the books, but a state supreme court ruling establishes that there is no duty to retreat in New Mexico, which helps it out in the Castle Doctrine column. The state also boasts some of the nation’s best elk hunting.
+ 33. Nebraska
The Cornhusker State made a run at permitless carry this year, but sponsors were unable to garner enough votes to move the bill through the unicameral legislature’s unique and cumbersome cloture process. Nebraska became a shall-issue state in 2006 after a decade-long political battle and more than 80,000 permits have been issued, which calculates to 4.3 percent of Nebraskans. Reciprocity is strong and open carry is generally legal, but it can be prohibited by individual cities such as in Omaha and Lincoln. There are no limits on black guns or NFA items. The state loses significant points is in the Castle Doctrine category since the state imposes a duty to retreat when outside of a person’s dwelling or workplace.
- 32. Iowa
Iowa earned a boost in G&A’s rankings in 2021 when it became the 18th permitless carry state, earning it a full 10 points in the RTC column. With no legislative action in 2022, its score remains the same. Suppressors are legal in Iowa, but most NFA items are restricted, costing it points. Black guns are unrestricted, and the state has strong use-of-force laws that earn it 9 points. Brownell’s retail showroom in Grinnell is worth a stop if you’re traveling across the state on Interstate 80.
+ 31. Pennsylvania
Lame-duck Governor Tom Wolf continues to veto pro-gun legislation at a steady clip. Late in 2021, he vetoed a permitless carry bill. In February ’22, he killed a much-needed firearm preemption legislation with the stroke of his pen. The state receives 7 points for RTC and full marks in the Black Rifle and NFA Categories. Use-of-force laws favor the victim, earning the Keystone State 8 points. Overall, Pennsylvania’s shooting culture is strong, particularly outside of the big cities. The state has a long and proud hunting tradition.
■ 30. Maine
A bill that would have partially repealed a Sunday hunting ban failed to make it out of the legislature in 2022. Maine still gets high marks thanks to its strong permitless carry law and its lack of restrictions on semiautomatic firearms and NFA items. The state loses points for its use-of-force laws since it imposes a duty to retreat requirement when outside of the home.
■ 29. Nevada
Nevada’s legislature did not meet in 2022 so nothing has changed with respect to the state’s gun laws. Nevada receives 8 points for its shall-issue concealed-carry law, and 10 points in the Black Rifle and NFA columns. Use of-force laws are good, and the shooting and hunting cultures are strong.
■ 28. North Carolina
The General Assembly passed a bill to replace the state’s antiquated pistol permit requirement in late 2021. Though the bill was supported by the Sheriffs’ Association, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) vetoed it anyway. North Carolina maintains a good RTC law with excellent reciprocity, which earns it 8 points. North Carolina doesn’t restrict black guns or NFA items, either, and use-of force laws are strong.
■ 27. Florida
In 2021, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation that removed houses of worship from the state’s list of prohibited carry locations. Despite its rapid population growth, Florida remains a great place for gun owners with its strong shall-issue RTC laws, statewide firearm preemption, a model use-of-force law and a thriving shooting culture. Black guns and NFA items are unrestricted. The only area where Florida loses significant points are the laws that restrict the purchase of long guns for most individuals under 21 and a red-flag confiscation program.
■ 26. Louisiana
As reported in 2021, a permitless carry bill passed out of the legislature but was vetoed by Gov. John Bel Edwards (D). Louisiana’s existing RTC law isn’t a bad one, but the list of prohibited locations is long. Nearly 400,000 residents hold carry permits. The state gets high marks for its use-of-force laws as well as in the Black Rifle and NFA categories.
■ 25. Michigan
Given Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), the concept of enacting any pro-gun law in Michigan doesn’t appear to be in the cards. Voters will get their say this November, though. 7.6 percent of Michigan residents have carry permits thanks to the state’s shall-issue RTC system. Reciprocity is excellent, honoring every other state’s permit. Michigan gets full points for its stand-your-ground law as well as in the Black Rifle and NFA categories.
- 24. Wisconsin
Like several states, Wisconsin has a pro-gun legislature with an antigun governor, Tony Evers (D). He vetoed three sensible pro-gun bills in 2022, including one that would have extended CCW permit recognition to every state. Despite this, the Badger State does well when it comes to protecting gun owners’ rights. Wisconsin passed a strong RTC bill in 2011 that earns it 8 points. There are no restrictions on black guns, and all federally registered NFA items are legal in the state.
- 23. South Carolina
Once again, the South Carolina legislature failed to pass a permitless carry bill during the 2021-2022 session. The dig on South Carolina is its relatively weak reciprocity with only 25 states’ permits recognized. This issue aside, South Carolina does well across the board with no restrictions on black guns or NFA items and strong use-of-force laws.
+ 22. Ohio
The fact that 6.7 percent of Ohioans have carry permits under the state’s RTC law became a moot point in March 2022 when Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed permitless-carry legislation. Ohio gets high marks across the board with no meaningful restrictions on individual firearm categories. Last year, the state’s Castle Doctrine law was strengthened. Ohio is sort of a sleeper in these rankings and is steadily moving its way forward.
- 21. Mississippi
With Gov. Tate Reeves (R) and a GOP-controlled legislature, Mississippi has a strong statutory structure that supports gun owners. Mississippi is a permitless carry state and permits are available for those who seek them. Open carry is legal at age 18. Black rifles and NFA items are unrestricted by state law and the use-of-force laws are very strong.
- 20. Arkansas
The Arkansas legislature met for a fiscal-only session in 2022, so no statutory changes were made that would affect its score. Arkansas is a permitless and shall-issue concealed-carry state and open carry is legal at age 18. The Natural State gets high marks in every category thanks to an increasingly strong statutory and cultural environment for gun owners. The state’s score got an additional boost in 2021 after Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed legislation that strengthened its use-of-force laws on would-be victims’ behalf.
- 19. West Viginia
Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed a bill in 2022 that clarifies the ability of individuals to carry firearms in their vehicles throughout the Mountaineer State. West Virginia is a permitless-carry state and its use-of-force laws are strong. Black guns and NFA items are not restricted by state law. West Virginia doesn’t have much of a firearms industry presence, but the governor is working to attract companies to the state.
- 18. New Hampshire
New Hampshire’s legislature passed an ATV carry bill in 2022, which was signed by Gov. Chris Sununu (R) on June 21. It allows individuals to carry loaded firearms on off-road vehicles, including snowmobiles. New Hampshire is one of the highest-ranking states in the eastern U.S. Permitless carry is legal, use-of-force laws are strong and the state doesn’t restrict gun ownership beyond the scope of federal law. SIG Sauer’s headquarters and numerous manufacturing facilities give the state a significant industry presence.
■ 17. Missouri
No changes were made to Missouri’s gun laws since our last report. It remains a permitless carry state that receives top scores in nearly every category. The Show Me State is a great place to be a competitive shooter. Columbia is actually the birthplace of the International Practical Shooting Confederation, having been founded there by Jeff Cooper and a group of other shooters back in 1976.
+ 16. Alabama
In March 2022, Alabama became the 22nd state to enact a permitless-carry law, a victory that was several years in the making. Many sheriffs in the state opposed the bill because their agencies derive significant revenue from the issuance of permits. Permits will still be issued to those who desire them, especially for travel outside the state. Alabama is a pro-gun state across the board with plenty of ranges and an active competitive shooting scene.
After a multiyear effort, the Indiana legislature passed a permitless-carry bill in the spring of 2022, and it was signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb (R). Indiana now receives a full 10 points in the RTC category. Indiana will continue to issue its permits, which has low fees and lacks a training mandate. The state has strong use-of-force laws that include civil-liability protections, earning it full points in that category. There are no restrictions on the sale or possession of Black Rifles or registered NFA items.
- 14. Kentucky
Kentucky is somewhat unique in the region since it has a Democrat governor and a Republican-dominated legislature, perfect conditions for a stalemate on controversial issues. Kentucky achieves a near-perfect score in every category, making it one of the most gun-friendly states east of the Mississippi. It was an early adopter of permitless carry. Its use-of-force laws are strong, and miscellaneous provisions relating to firearms favor freedom.
+ 13. Georgia
Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed legislation in 2022 that immediately eliminated the permit requirement for carrying a handgun, bringing Georgia’s RTC score up to 10 points. Shall-issue carry permits will remain available. The state has strong use-of-force laws and a host of ranges. Gov. Kemp’s Democratic opponent in the 2022 gubernatorial election, Stacey Abrams, is an outspoken advocate for gun control. She could be a disaster for Georgia’s gun owners. If you live in the Peach State, get out and vote!
■ 12. Tennessee
Three pro-gun bills advanced in the state’s legislature this year, but none made it across the finish line. Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed legislation that eliminated the permit requirement for Tennessee residents last year, bringing the Volunteer State up to 91/2 points in the RTC category. Carry permits are still to be issued upon request and an Enhanced Tennessee Handgun Carry Permit increases the number of places that a firearm can be legally carried. Tennessee is highly ranked in each of our categories and has ample shooting opportunities available. In Fall 2021, Smith & Wesson announced plans to move many of its manufacturing operations to Maryville, near Knoxville.
- 11. Oklahoma
A bill that would have shielded gun owners and business from the discriminatory practices of banks failed to advance in 2022 when Senate Floor Leader Greg McCortney (R) refused to bring it up for a final vote. Still, Oklahoma gets high marks across the chart thanks to a permitless-carry law, a strong stand-your-ground statute and an overall lack of state-mandated regulations on gun owners.
- 10. Alaska
A bill was considered in 2022 that would have imposed “safe storage” requirements on Alaskan gun owners; it failed to advance. Alaska remains an incredibly strong state for gun owners. It was the first permitless-carry state that achieved its status by legislative rather than legal action. Alaska uses federal gun laws as both the floor and ceiling, imposing no additional burdens on its residents or visitors. If you are an outdoorsman, Alaska’s unparalleled natural treasures make it a top destination.
■ 9. Kansas
Gov. Laura Kelly (D) is being challenged in November 2022 by Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R). As I mentioned in 2021, AG Schmidt was the senate president in 2006 when Kansas overrode then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ (D) veto to make RTC the law of the land. Since then, Kansas enacted permitless carry, passed a strong use-of-force law and rolled back various restrictions that were on the books for decades. Kansas is proof that, with effort, gun owners can move gun rights forward.
+ 8. Texas
The Lone Star State became a permitless carry state in 2021, which meaningfully boosted its score. Both law-abiding residents and nonresidents can carry with or without a permit. Texas has a thriving competitive and recreational shooting community, some fantastic ranges and a strong firearm industry presence. Gun control has become a central theme in the 2022 Texas gubernatorial race with anti-gunner Beto O’Rourke. In his bid to oust Gov. Greg Abbott (R), O’Rourke has exploited the emotions following the tragedy in Uvalde. The choice for Texas gun owners is clear.
■ 7. South Dakota
In 2021, South Dakota’s score got a boost when Gov. Kristi Noem (R) signed a model stand-your-ground bill. The law provides protections both inside and outside the home, and even establishes immunity from civil liability in some cases. This year, the governor and the state’s legislature further strengthened that law by clarifying that the burden of proof in self-defense cases lies with the prosecution, not the accused. Carry permit fees were also lowered to $0. Thanks to permitless carry, a permissive NFA environment and a strong shooting and hunting culture, South Dakota gets high marks in Guns & Ammo’s rankings.
■ 6. North Dakota
The state’s legislature only meets in odd-numbered years so nothing changed in terms of gun laws in 2022. North Dakota is highly ranked among this list with permitless carry for residents and open carry for residents and non-residents with recognized permits. North Dakota recognizes permits from 38 states, which means that there is room for improvement.
■ 5. Arizona
Points-wise, Arizona is in a five-way tie for first place. Arizona was the survey’s top state from 2013 to 2020, but the crown was passed to Wyoming in 2021. Though the state’s gun laws remain incredibly strong, Arizona is changing, largely due to the mass migration of Californians. Any state that elects the founder of a major gun-control organization to the U.S. Senate cannot justifiably hold the top spot on this list. Still, Arizona has permitless carry, strong use-of-force laws and does not restrict NFA items or black guns. Arizona’s competitive shooting scene is arguably the best in the nation, too.
■ 4. Utah
Gov. Spencer Cox (R) has been a breath of fresh air to Utah’s gun owners. After signing several pro-gun bills in 2021, he approved legislation in 2022 that strengthened the state’s all-important preemption statute. Utah has it all for gun owners: Great laws, wide-open spaces and plenty of places to shoot. There is also a large firearm-industry presence, and a thriving competitive shooting community. Utah ties for first place on points.
■ 3. Montana
Montana’s legislature did not meet in 2022 so nothing has changed since G&A’s 2021 rankings. Montana maintains a full 10 points in every category, putting it into a five-way tie for first place. Montana is a hunting and shooting paradise with a diverse population of game animals and habitats. The only question in Montana is whether or not the state can absorb so many outsiders without losing its rich culture. (Look at the changes in Colorado, for example.)
■ 2. Idaho
Gov. Brad Little (R) signed legislation in 2022 protecting gun owners and businesses during states-of-emergency. Idaho receives top scores in every single category, putting it in a five-way tie for first place. One could certainly argue that the state deserves G&A’s top spot. Idaho has permitless carry, strong use-of-force laws, statewide firearm preemption and doesn’t restrict NFA items or black guns. The hunting is excellent and shooting opportunities are many. Boise’s population is growing fast, which raises the same questions as Montana: Can so many new residents leave the laws of the states that they’re leaving behind?
■ 1. Wyoming
Wyoming extended its permitless carry law in 2021 to include non-residents, which brought its score up to 10 points in that and every other category. Like most of its neighbors, Wyoming is a true paradise for gun owners with a strong showing across the board. From our view, Wyoming stands the best odds of maintaining its culture thanks to an unlikely (but strong) force: Brutal winter winds. Everyone loves Wyoming in the summer, but come February we don’t see a mass of left-coasters making the Cowboy State their permanent home.
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