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The Best States for Gun Owners: Ranked for 2023

To start off the new year, we've ranked how well each state upheld the Second Amendment in 2023. Full rankings chart at the end of the list.

The Best States for Gun Owners: Ranked for 2023

Much ink has been spilled concerning the political polarization of America, and much of it is true. The fact is that Red states are getting redder and increasingly more populist, while Blue states are getting bluer and more progressive. Moderate voices on both sides are disappearing in American politics. This division is also creating a more stark contrast between states’ laws and cultures. Gun rights versus gun control is a just one example of this phenomenon. A handful of states continue to be radically anti-­gun while others are very pro-­gun.

This wasn’t always the case, at least when it came to gun laws. For a time, these rankings didn’t change much from year to year and I wondered whether this annual series would eventually lose its relevance. There were times when little happened in terms of new gun laws. The period between September 2022 and August 2023 was not one of those periods. There was so much activity — on both sides — that it was tough to faithfully describe the laws. To that end, I will primarily focus on this year’s changes rather than present a review of each state’s individual laws and regulations.

As mentioned, the current political environment has made ranking the states more difficult and subjective than ever. At this point, there isn’t much daylight between many of the states’ point earnings with respect to the laws. The research is too exhaustive and the details are too nuanced for these rankings to be perfect. However, 2023’s standings are as objective and accurate as G&A can make them. As always, we welcome your input with reference to you state’s laws, and we often consider those comments in these rankings.

G&A’s data was gathered and cross-­referenced using numerous sources including official legislative records, various media, as well as from advocacy groups such as NRA-­ILA (nraila.org) and USCCA (usconcealedcarry.com). We also sourced data from well-­researched anti-­gun groups such as the Giffords Law Center (giffords.org). There’s a lot to sift through given that more than 1,700 firearm-­related bills have been introduced in state legislatures as of May 2023. Roughly 100 of those bills became law.

To calculate the scores, we evaluated each state numerically in each of five categories: Right-­To-­Carry/CCW; access to “Black Rifles”; the state’s 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 were awarded 0 to ­10 points in each category and ranked according to the total number of points. Tie-­breakers have become increasingly common in these rankings, and that’s where the intangibles of “shooting culture” factor in. If our personal bias is present, this is where it is the most visible.

Right ­to Carry (RTC)

When G&A began these rankings in 2013, only three states had “permitless carry” laws: Vermont, Alaska and Arizona. In 2023, that number is up to 27! A law-­abiding citizen can travel from Key West or the Rio Grande to the Canadian border without needing a permit to carry. This category is evaluated using criteria applied in G&A’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 received 1 to ­6 points, depending on the standard review factors. Shall-­issue states, states that require a permit be issued so long as the applicant is qualified, were given 6 to ­8 points. A state with legal permitless or “Constitutional” carry — there is only one — earned 9 points, whereas states that both issue permits and allow citizens to carry without one were given a 10-­point score. Open-carry laws were considered under the Miscellaneous column and could be used as a tiebreaker. One would have thought that the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen would have caused a big shift in these rankings but, so far, that’s not the case.

Black Rifles

This category examines whether a state regulates or bans firearms based on appearance or mechanical characteristics. Examples include bans on so-­called “assault weapons.” These laws often require registration of certain firearms and, in some states, ban ownership altogether. Our 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 very poorly. Unfortunately, the latter is becoming increasingly common.

National Firearms Act (NFA)

The National Firearms Act (NFA) regulates the sale, transfer and possession of machine guns, suppressors (actually called “silencers” in the law), short-­barreled rifles (SBR), short-­barreled shotguns (SBS), Any Other Weapons (AOW), and Destructive Devices (DD). The 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 — and some states ban ownership altogether or piecemeal; we rank each state based on a sliding scale of regulations.

Castle Doctrine

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 be and protects citizens from both criminal and civil liability if appropriate force is used. This year we investigated deeper into this complex topic and, in some cases, recalibrated scores based on a fair comparison with other states.




Miscellaneous

This is the most subjective category in G&A’s survey but it allows us leeway in our ability to quantify the culture and environment in a given state. We use 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 law preemption laws, which restrict local governments from imposing its own gun laws or rules, are vitally important to gun owners and play a big role in a particular state’s Miscellaneous score.

2022 VS. 2023 Placement: = Same (-) = Worse (+) = Better

51. New York 

It was a tough job to make things worse for gun owners in the Empire State, but the legislature did its best. Several negative bills were proposed including one that would have gutted the current network of firearm instructors in the state; so much for “gun safety.” Another bill would have prohibited the use of lead ammunition for hunting on state land. Fortunately, none of these bills passed through both chambers so they will not land on Governor Kathy Hochul’s desk. New York received low scores across the board. Overall, the landscape for gun owners in New York is rough and the future looks bleak. No wonder so many New Yorkers are moving south. When you go, please leave the politics behind.

- 50. New Jersey 

After G&A’s rankings were released last year, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation designed to effectively cancel the Bruen victory. This bill expanded prohibited locations, increased permit fees, banned carrying a firearm in one’s own vehicle, and only allows carrying a firearm on private property if the owner posts a sign authorizing it. The law is being challenged in the courts, but the outcome remains unclear at this point. By any measure, the Garden State is a hostile environment for gun owners, receiving low scores across the board. Points-­wise, New Jersey is now tied with Hawaii.

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+ 49. Hawaii

Obtaining a carry permit in Hawaii has been nearly impossible for years. As we have previously reported, zero permits currently exist. That didn’t stop Governor Josh Green from signing legislation this year to make it even more difficult to carry, radically expanding “gun-­free” zones and creating subjective criteria for issuing permits. Permits to purchase a firearm are required. Magazine capacity is restricted to 10 rounds, use-­of-­force laws favor the attacker, and most common NFA items are banned. Hawaii has great surfing, though.

48. California

California has the distinction of being the top-­ranked state in the anti-­gun Giffords Law Center’s rankings. Still, lawmakers in Sacramento continue to push for more gun control. In the Fall of 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation expanding California’s Red Flag laws. Bills that would have created a firearm excise tax and made legally carrying a firearm more difficult did not make it to his desk. As the legislature goes into summer recess for ’23, no anti-­gun bills have passed; several have been proposed. California received low scores for a difficult carry permit environment, restrictions on many semiautomatics and magazines, and other miscellaneous statutes. The state received 7 points for its use-­of-­force laws, which do not impose a duty-­to-­retreat thanks only to a court decision. Despite having some of the nation’s toughest gun laws, the state had more mass shootings than any other state across a 50-­year survey period, more than Texas and Florida combined.

47. Massachusetts 

The Bay State is no heaven for gun owners, but things could get far, far worse. In July, a member of the House of Representatives introduced “an act modernizing firearm laws.” This 142-­page bill effectively re­writes the Commonwealth’s gun laws from top to bottom. The bill would impose a broad ban on a swath of firearms — without grandfathering. Training and testing would be required for gun ownership. All NFA items would be banned, and all firearms and magazines would require registration. Firearm parts would need to be serialized and the government notified if a part is to be replaced. Seriously, the bill would also ban anyone under the age of 15 from participating in shooting sports or firearm training. And there’s more — lots more. I encourage residents to search the legislature’s website for HD.4420 and read the details for yourself.

46. District of Columbia (D.C.)

If we gave out an award for the state that has improved the most since we began our rankings, the District of Columbia would likely win. (Don’t write the editors, I know that it’s not a state.) Thanks to the courts, D.C. went from a place where firearms were all but banned to a jurisdiction with a shall-­issue, concealed-carry permit system. The good news ends there. There are no public shooting ranges in the District, Black Rifles are banned, magazine capacity is restricted and use-­of-­force laws allow juries to consider a “failure to retreat” when rendering a self-­defense verdict. In 2022, D.C. experienced the highest violent-crime rate in the U.S.

45. Connecticut

Traditionally, the Land of Steady Habits was moderate, at least compared to its neighbors. That is changing rapidly, in part due to the trifecta of Democrat leadership. This year, Governor Ned Lamont signed legislation with significant implications to CT’s gun owners. The bill banned open carry, limits the number of handguns that can be purchased, and requires registrations of pre-­1994 semi­autos that were previously grandfathered. There are also dealer requirements and storage mandates contained in the new law. Connecticut does issue carry permits on a shall-­issue basis, but many semiautos and the magazines are banned and/or require registration. The state imposes a duty to retreat while outside the home, costing it points in the Castle Doctrine category.

44. Maryland

For years, obtaining a carry permit in Maryland was all but impossible. The Bruen decision offered a glimmer of hope in that regard, but the legislature recently passed a bill that drastically expands the list of “sensitive places” where firearms cannot be carried. Gun rights groups are already challenging the law in court. Maryland imposes a duty to retreat outside of the home, black guns are restricted, and magazines are limited to 10 rounds. Some NFA items, including suppressors, are legal in the state.

43. Rhode Island

In June 2022, Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee signed legislation banning magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds. Violation of the ban constitutes a felony. The bill also raised the legal age to purchase long guns from 18 to 21 and prohibits carrying a loaded rifle or shotgun in public. These changes will lower the state’s score in both the Black Gun and Miscellaneous categories. Prohibited magazines must be altered, surrendered or shipped outside of the state within 180 days of the law’s enactment. A federal district judge ruled the ban constitutional, but that decision is being appealed to the 5th Circuit.

42. Delaware

Last July, President Biden’s home state became the latest to impose a restrictive magazine ban. Governor John Carney signed legislation prohibiting magazines that hold more than 17 rounds, as well as bills that raise the age for long gun purchases and allow for civil litigation against gun manufacturers. Delaware has a carry permit system and honors the permits of 21 other states. Most NFA items, including machine guns and suppressors, are prohibited. Delaware imposes no duty to retreat in deadly force scenarios, and its laws include liability protections, which gained the state 8 points.


- 41. Illinois

There was real hope for gun owners in Illinois after the state was forced by the courts to adopt a shall-­issue concealed carry law. That hope was dashed early in 2023 when Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a comprehensive gun ban. This law made it illegal to sell, deliver or purchase an “assault weapon,” an assault weapon attachment, or a .50-caliber firearm. The way the law reads, merely buying or selling a flash hider or folding stock is illegal, regardless of whether they are attached to a firearm. Guns and accessories covered under the ban are grandfathered, but there are numerous restrictions on where they can be used and possessed. Illinois also does not allow individuals to own suppressors. On the positive side, the state has very strong use-­of-­force laws, which include protections from civil liability. Based on this year’s changes, the state slips one spot in our rankings.

+ 40. Washington

Washington has fallen four positions in the rankings through the past few years. In 2022, Washington lawmakers passed an extensive magazine ban, but that didn’t stop them from going even further in 2023. In April, Governor Jay Inslee signed legislation banning the sale, manufacture, importation or distribution of so-­called “assault weapons.” Any semi­automatic equipped with a single feature, i.e., a flash hider, pistol grip or telescoping stock, qualifies under the statute. Additional restrictions apply to handguns and shotguns. The law does not ban the possession of these firearms. There is an NFA component to the ban as well, though suppressors are not banned per se, they cannot be legally installed on most semi­automatic firearms. A law that opens the door to junk lawsuits against the firearm industry was also passed. In all, eight anti-­gun bills became law in this state in 2023 alone.

- 39. Minnesota

Democrats took control of both legislative chambers after the 2022 elections and wasted no time passing the Public Safety Omnibus Bill, which included a ban on private transfers of firearms. A lead ammunition ban failed to advance. Minnesota has a relatively weak shall-­issue carry law, allows some NFA items, and imposes a duty to retreat before deadly force can be used.

+ 38. Colorado

The Colorado legislature considered the passage of an “assault weapons” ban in 2023, but the measure was ultimately pulled from consideration. Governor Jared Polis did sign legislation allowing for lawsuits against the gun industry, as well as an extended Red Flag law. The state has an existing magazine limit of 15 rounds. Colorado has a shall-­issue carry permit system, allows for NFA items and has reasonably strong use-­of-­force laws. There is a thriving competitive shooting culture and offers incredible hunting opportunities. Tied in terms of points with Minnesota, this state’s shooting culture puts it ahead.


37. Vermont

The Green Mountain State’s legislature, though far left of the rest of the nation, used to be content to steer clear of gun-control measures. Despite Vermont having one of the lowest violent crime rates in the nation, that honeymoon is over. A handful of years ago, the state implemented a magazine limit of 10 rounds for rifles and 15 for handguns. In 2023, Governor Phil Scott allowed H.230 to become law without his signature. This law imposed a 72-­hour waiting period on firearm transfers, mandated storage requirements and implemented a Red Flag confiscation program. Vermont still gets high marks for permitless carry and strong use-­of-­force laws.

36. Oregon

Oregon is an example of a state that has slid heavily Left in recent years. I was in the socialist utopia of Portland in 2022 and saw the wreckage of extreme progressive policies on every street corner. In ’23, Oregon passed legislation at the behest of the state’s attorney general, banning “homemade” firearms. A last-­minute compromise eliminated a provision that would have prevented 18- to ­20-year-­olds from possessing a semi­automatic long gun. Residents can obtain a permit to carry in Oregon, but no other states’ permits are honored.

35. Virginia

Virginia has a Republican governor, a Republican majority in the House of Delegates and a Democrat majority in the Senate. This partisan split was a recipe for passing very little in terms of legislation — usually good news. The Senate passed four separate anti-­gun bills, though, including a gun and magazine ban, but those measures were defeated in a House sub-­committee. There are some artifacts remaining from the previous Democrat trifecta including a “one-gun-a-month” law, a ban on private transfers and a Red Flag program. The state continues to have a strong right-to-carry law that has issued more than 700,000 permits and recognizes the permits of 48 of its neighbors. Let’s hope that Republicans can hold the House and take control of the Senate in November 2023.

34. New Mexico

New Mexicans narrowly escaped the passage of several extremely anti-­gun bills in early 2023. These bills would have limited magazine capacity to nine rounds — the lowest in the nation — banned and registered “assault weapons,” outlawed suppressor ownership, created a 14-­day waiting period for firearm transfers, and more. Lobbyists from NRA, NSSF and others fought this battle to the wire and kept all but one of the bills (related to minors accessing firearms) from passing. The governor has vowed to come back in 2024, so the fight is not over. NM gets high marks in the Black Rifle and NFA categories, but that will change significantly if Governor Grisham gets her wish.

- 33. Iowa

The Hawkeye State has steadily improved its scores these last several years by adopting permitless carry and implementing strong use-­of-­force laws. The only category that costs it points is NFA, since it does not allow for the possession of registered machine guns, AOWs or DDs. This year, Iowa’s legislature passed the Safer Families Act, which allows individuals to drive onto school grounds without removing their firearm from their vehicle. If you’re driving across Iowa on I-­80, be sure to stop at Brownell’s showroom in Grinnell.

- 32. Pennsylvania

Like Virginia, the Keystone State has a split partisan majority in its two legislative chambers. The Democrat-­led House considered a handful of gun-control measures this session and passed two by a narrow margin. Those bills have not seen action in the Republican-­led Senate. Pennsylvania received seven points for its shall-­issue RTC law and 10 points in the Black Rifle and NFA categories. Use-­of-­force laws gained the state 8 points in the Castle Doctrine column. Pennsylvania could use a stronger firearm preemption law, but the state’s previous governor vetoed that along with a permitless carry bill in 2021.

- 31. Michigan 

Things were going well in Michigan for several years, but that changed in 2022 when Democrats gained a trifecta by flipping both the state House and Senate. During its first session, the new majority sent three gun-control bills to Governor Whitmire’s desk: A Red Flag proposal, a ban on private transfers and mandatory storage requirements. Look out for an effort to impose magazine-capacity limits in 2024. Michigan still scores fairly high, but that could quickly change if this trend continues.

+ 30. Nebraska

After lingering for several years as a relatively lukewarm state for gun owners, Nebraska got a huge boost in 2023 after enacting permitless carry. Governor Jim Pillen signed the measure in April 2023. This bill also strengthened firearm law preemption, limiting the authority of municipalities from passing its own firearm ordinances, which has always been an issue in the Cornhusker State. Nebraska’s only weakness is its use-­of-­force law, which requires a duty to retreat. On a personal note, I am saddened to report that Ron Jensen, a Lincoln lobbyist with a distinguished career that included working to pass Nebraska’s first right-­to-­carry law in 2006, passed away in December ’22. Jensen was a professional, a gentleman, and one of my mentors. He will be missed.

+ 29. Maine 

Maine’s Democrat-­led legislature followed the will of its constituents and killed a universal background check bill along with 72-­hour waiting-period legislation this session. Maine got 10 points in the RTC, Black Rifle and NFA columns, thanks to its unrestricted positions on those issues. The Pine Tree State’s only hit came from its use-­of-­force law, which imposes a duty to retreat while outside of the home.

+ 28. Nevada

Nevada has a Democrat-­led legislature, but recently elected a Republican governor. That paid off in 2023 when Governor Lombardo vetoed three anti-­gun bills that passed through the legislature. These bills would have restricted concealed carry, prevented 18- to ­20-­year-­olds from accessing certain firearms, and expanded the number of misdemeanor crimes for which someone could lose their gun rights. Nevada maintains an overall good score with nearly full points awarded in every category. The state is a sleeper for big-game hunting opportunities, and the firearms industry presence around Las Vegas is expanding.

- 27. Louisiana

Louisiana has a Republican legislature but the current governor, John Bel Edwards, is a Democrat. This year, a permitless-carry bill was introduced in Louisiana but failed to pass. Two anti-­gun bills that would have expanded “gun-­free” zones and established a Red Flag program also failed to advance. Louisiana does well across the board in our rankings since, as the Giffords Law Center wrote, “Louisiana has some of the country’s weakest gun laws.”

+ 26. North Carolina

North Carolina has a Democrat governor in Roy Cooper, but an overwhelmingly Republican legislature. This year, the House and Senate overrode the Governor’s veto on legislation allowing for lawful concealed carry in churches attached to schools. The bill also repealed the state’s outdated permit-­to-­purchase system. A permitless-carry bill was considered in 2023, but it failed to cross over from the House to the Senate before the deadline. North Carolina does well across the chart with a shall-­issue RTC permit system and strong use-­of-­force laws.

- 25. Wisconsin

The Badger State has a Democrat governor in Tony Evers and strong Republican majorities in both legislative chambers. This means that little will change with respect to firearms laws, either pro- or anti-gun. Wisconsin received 8 points for a strong shall-­issue RTC law, and full points in the Black Rifle, NFA, and Castle Doctrine categories. Wisconsin limits the authority of local governments to enact their own gun-control ordinances, which helped to tame the hostility of anti-­gun municipalities such as Milwaukee and Madison.

- 24. South Carolina

If the outcome is as-expected, South Carolina might become the next permitless-carry state after the 2024 legislative session. Bills advanced in both chambers of the legislature and will carry­over into the ’24 session in January. Governor Henry McMaster supports the legislation and will sign a bill if it makes it to his desk. This will be a big step forward in a state that has traditionally been tougher than its neighbors regarding carry permit reciprocity. Due to that limited reciprocity, S.C. received 7.5 points in the RTC column, but nearly full points elsewhere. The Palmetto State will get a big boost in our rankings next year if permitless carry becomes law.

- 23. Ohio

Ohio got a big boost in 2022 when Governor DeWine signed permitless-
carry legislation. In 2023, he signed a bill that guarantees access to firearm- and hunting-­related activities both at the state and local level during declared emergencies. Ohio doesn’t restrict Black Rifles or NFA items, and has a use-­of-­force statute that doesn’t allow courts to consider whether an individual could have retreated before using deadly force. The National Matches at Camp Perry remain a mecca for competitive shooters of several disciplines.

+ 22. Florida

After passing anti-­gun legislation in the wake of the Parkland High School murders, the Sunshine State is moving back in a more pro-­gun direction. The legislature passed, and Governor Ron DeSantis signed, legislation that authorized permitless carry in the state for both residents and non-­residents alike. Florida’s use-­of-­force laws are a model for the nation and the state received 10 points for its treatment of NFA items. The only restriction costing Florida points is its prohibition on 18-­to 20-­year-­olds purchasing long guns.

21. Mississippi

In recent years, we have heard reports of financial institutions discriminating against firearm-­related businesses. In response, the Mississippi legislature passed legislation in 2023 that prohibits payment processors from flagging gun owners with a Merchant Category Code. Governor Tate Reeves signed the bill into law. Mississippi received full points for its permitless carry law. Its use-­of-­force laws are strong and include a presumption that can help protect individuals from civil liability. Since it’s not a blanket civil protection, we did not award maximum points.

- 20. West Virginia

West Virginia is a permitless carry state, but permits remain available. In 2023, Governor Jim Justice signed legislation allowing permit holders to carry lawfully on state university campuses. West Virginia received high scores across the chart. After reviewing the state’s use-­of-­force laws, we recalibrated the score to reflect its strength in protecting law-­abiding citizens from both criminal and civil scenarios.

- 19. Missouri

Legislation that would have eliminated “gun-­free zones,” including places of worship, failed to make it to the governor’s desk. Still, Missouri has great gun laws across the board with nearly full points in every category. Missouri has permitless carry, strong use-­of-­force laws and does not restrict magazines or NFA items.

18. New Hampshire

They take that “Live Free or Die” motto seriously in the Granite State. In 2023, legislators killed a measure that would have created mandatory storage requirements for firearms. New Hampshire received high marks for its permitless carry law, strong use-­of-­force statutes, and an overall pro-­gun environment, making NH one of the most firearm-­friendly states in the northeast. SIG Sauer has multiple high-­tech manufacturing facilities in the state, making it a gunmaking hub.

- 17. Alabama

“Sweet Home Alabama” became a permitless carry state in 2022, gaining it full points in the RTC column. Permits remain available from county Sheriffs’ offices, and fees are reasonable. Alabama is an overall pro-­gun state with recreational and competitive shooting opportunities abound. The CMP range near Talladega, for example, is one of the most impressive range facilities extant.

+ 16. Arkansas

For several years, there has been a dispute as to whether permitless carry was truly legal in Arkansas. In 2023, Governor Huckabee Sanders and the legislature made the issue crystal clear with the passage and signature of permitless-carry legislation, along with six other pro-­gun bills. The state’s score won’t change in the RTC column since G&A had already given it full points, but the waters are no longer muddy. Arkansas does well across the chart thanks to an overall firearm-­friendly environment.

15. Indiana

If you question the utility of permitless-carry laws, Indiana might change your mind. In 2022, Eli Dicken used his concealed handgun to stop a mass shooting inside a mall. This “good guy with a gun” hit the assailant eight times in 15 seconds at a distance of around 40 yards, stopping the murderous rampage. Dicken did not have a carry permit, and Indiana law did not require him to have one. In 2023, Governor Eric Holcomb signed legislation guaranteeing the privacy of carry permit holders. Indiana has always been a leader on the RTC front, and it received full points in nearly every category.

14. Kentucky

In 2023, the Kentucky House passed a campus-carry bill, but the measure did not advance in the Senate. Nonetheless, Kentucky is a permitless-carry state that also received top scores in the RTC, Black Gun, NFA and Castle Doctrine columns. The Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot, truly a unique experience, is no longer. The last of these amazing displays of freedom occurred in the fall of 2021.

13. Georgia

After passing and implementing permitless carry in 2022, the Georgia legislature took a break when it came to firearm-­related bills. Georgia received full points nearly in every category for its RTC, NFA, Black Gun and Castle Doctrine statutes. Georgia has a thriving  — and growing — firearm industry presence, which includes Daniel Defense, Norma and Taurus.

- 12. Oklahoma

Governor Kevin Stitt signed two gun-­related bills in 2023, one that allows permitless carry while in a boat and another that cleaned-­up and strengthened the state’s permitless-carry law. Oklahoma received high scores in every category.

- 11. Alaska

Alaska passed legislation in 2023 that protects gun rights during declared emergencies. The legislature also defeated Red Flag and mandatory storage provisions. Alaska was the second state to adopt permitless carry, which was known as “Vermont-­style Carry” at the time. Alaska’s gun laws are strong across the chart, and it is a wide-­open sportsman’s paradise. Alaska is a state where even the liberals carry guns; it’s funny how that happens when you become part of the food chain.

- 10. Kansas

Kansas has a Republican legislature and a Republican attorney general, but a Democrat governor. This same partisan split was what made passage of the state’s original RTC bill such a challenge in 2006. Governor Laura Kelly vetoed a bill in 2023 that would have established gun safety education programs in the schools. The legislature failed to override that veto by one Republican vote. If you live in Representative David Younger’s district, you might ask him why he didn’t support it. The governor did sign a bill that was pushed by Attorney General Kris Kobach to lower RTC permit fees. Kansas is a permitless carry state that doesn’t restrict Black Guns or NFA items. Its use-­of-­force laws are strong. Kansas has come a long way in the last two decades regarding gun rights.

- 9. Texas

As of 2021, permitless carry and open carry are legal in Texas for individuals 21 and older. In many ways, Texas has one of the strongest use-­of-­force laws in the nation, allowing for deadly force to defend “land or tangible, moveable property” in certain circumstances. That said, the law does not protect against civil liability so we did not award full points in that category. The Lone Star State has an enthusiastic shooting, training and hunting culture, and some of the finest ranges in the nation can be found within its borders. Hopefully, Texas’ thriving gun culture is not negatively influenced by its rapid population growth.

+ 8. Tennessee

In January 2023, the state of Tennessee settled a lawsuit with the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) that challenged the prohibition on 18- to 20-­year-­olds carrying firearms. Per that agreement, any law-­abiding individual 18 or older can carry a firearm without a permit in the Volunteer State. Permits are also available, including an enhanced permit that allows an individual to carry in additional locations. As of ’23, Tennessee received 10 points in the RTC category. The state also received full points in the Black Rifle, NFA and Castle Doctrine columns. After a shooting at a church school in Nashville, Governor Bill Lee proposed a Red Flag law. Legislative leaders called that idea a “non-­starter.”

7. South Dakota

South Dakota is an extremely welcoming state for gun owners and, under the leadership of Governor Kristi Noem, continues to move the ball forward. The fingerprinting requirement for enhanced carry permit renewals was eliminated by legislation signed by the governor in 2023. South Dakota received full points in nearly every column, putting it in the top tier of pro-­gun states.

- 6. Arizona

Arizona long sat at the top of G&A’s “Best States” rankings, thanks to its extremely pro-­gun statutes and one of the nation’s most-­impressive competitive shooting environments. Arizona has elected two anti-­gun statewide candidates in recent years, though, which isn’t a good sign of things to come. In 2023, Governor Katie Hobbs vetoed four pro-­gun bills that passed out of both chambers of the legislature. Despite the laws already on the books, we cannot in good conscience award our top spot to The Grand Canyon State.

+ 5. North Dakota

North Dakota continues to work toward an increasingly friendly environment for gun owners. Governor Doug Burgum signed several pro-­gun bills in 2023, one that strengthened the state’s preemption law, another that extended permitless carry to non-­residents, and a bill that prevents credit card processors from flagging or discriminating against firearm-­related businesses. North Dakota received 10 points for its RTC law. The state has strong use-­of-­force statutes and doesn’t restrict categories of firearms or accessories.

4. Utah

In 2023, Governor Spencer Cox signed a bill that puts teeth into the state’s firearm preemption statute to prevent municipalities from enacting their own gun-control ordinances. The legislature also defeated a waiting period bill. Utah received full points in every category for its strong laws related to firearms, as well as its gun culture. Several industry icons are located in the state including Browning and SilencerCo.

3. Montana

Montana is a permitless carry state where permits are issued if ­desired on a shall-­issue basis. In 2023, Governor Gianforte signed legislation creating an enhanced permit that will give Montanans reciprocity in five additional states. The Governor also signed legislation that prohibits taxpayer dollars from flowing to businesses that discriminate against our industry. Montana received full points across the board. One could easily argue that it should sit in the number one slot.

2. Idaho

Idaho is working hard to take the top spot in G&A’s rankings. Governor Little signed three pro-­gun bills into law this year. One bill was related to the state’s use-­of-­force laws, while the other two focused on discrimination of gun owners and gun-­related businesses by financial institutions and payment processors. Idaho has strong laws, a thriving shooting culture and hunting opportunities abound.

1. Wyoming

Wyoming already had the top spot in Guns & Ammo’s annual rankings, but it padded its score in 2023 with the passage and signature of a strong firearm preemption law. Governor Mark Gordon signed the measure — which went into effect immediately — early in 2023. Wyoming received full points in every category thanks to its laws and culture. G&A ranked it number one because we felt that it is well-­positioned to maintain its culture for years to come, unlike some western states moving culturally left, likely due to West Coast transplants. Here’s hoping that the brutal winters keep “wokeness” away.

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