October 31, 2018
Guns & Ammo editors have been evaluating the gun laws of each state for the past six years and, in each of those articles, most states moved steadily in a pro-gun direction. This year, thanks in large part due to the media swirling around the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Parkland, we saw things begin to shift in the opposite direction. Many elected officials who ran on a “pro-gun” platform grew weak-kneed when it came to going on the record in support of those very same rights. Traditionally firearm-friendly states such as Vermont and Florida saw the passage of significant anti-gun legislation, almost overnight. How much have things really changed in the wake of this newest wave of anti-gun sentiment? We will do our best to quantify that.
As we have done in years past, we evaluate each state numerically in each of five categories: Right to Carry (RTC), access to “Black Rifles”, the states’ use-of-force laws (i.e., Castle Doctrine or CD), the prohibition of items regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA) and a catch-all Miscellaneous (MISC) column. States are awarded 0-10 points in each category and ranked according to their total number of points. In the case of a tie, which is common, we dig deeper into the “intangibles” category and rank states accordingly. Though we believe that our ranking method is fair, it is not intended to be exhaustive. No article of this length, researched by a single author, could capture every nuance of a state’s statutory and regulatory framework.
Right to Carry
This category is evaluated using the criteria applied in our “Best States for CCW” 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 1-6 points, depending on the standard review factors. Shall-issue states, states that require that a permit be issued so long as the applicant is qualified, are given 6-8 points. States with legal permitless or “constitutional” carry are given 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 9.5 points. Open carry laws are considered under the Miscellaneous column and can also be used as a tiebreaker.
This category examines whether a state regulates or bans firearms based on their appearance. 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 and, starting this year, we will use this category to track bans on accessory items such as “bump stocks”. States that implement bans on accessories will lose a point.
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). 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) and some states ban their ownership altogether or piecemeal; we rank each state based on a sliding scale of regulations. This has been an active category in recent years as states have moved to legalize the ownership and use of suppressors.
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 protect citizens from both criminal and civil liability if appropriate force is used.
Since 2018 saw the passage of numerous bills that would implement “red flag” or “protection order” laws, this category will see some movement in this year’s survey. This is the most subjective category in our survey but allows us some leeway in our ability to quantify the culture and environment in a given state. We use this category to track preemption statutes, laws and rules that fall outside of our other buckets as well as the availability of places to shoot. States with thriving competitive shooting communities are also recognized here.
51. New York
New York remains hostile ground for gun owners and the state’s handgun registration requirement went into effect early this year. The state’s Governor and Attorney General have even used the state’s regulatory powers to attack gun owners and manufacturers nationwide by leveraging financial and insurance institutions to work against them. The insurance broker and underwriter for the NRA Carry Guard program were fined millions of dollars and forced to discontinue their involvement in the program as a result of the state’s action; how’s that for big government? The only win for gun owners in New York this year was the forced resignation of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who apparently wasn’t opposed to violence when it involved himself and women. The Empire State gets zero points in the NFA category and magazines holding more than 10 rounds are a no-go. A may-issue carry permit system exists in the state but carrying in NYC requires a separate permit. (Previous ranking: 50)
50. New Jersey
New Jersey’s own Bon Jovi was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Bruce Springsteen has a hit show on Broadway but life isn’t so rosy for the state’s gun owners. The Governor recently signed a stack of anti-gun bills. These bills allow for confiscation under certain “red flag” circumstances, magazines holding more than 10 rounds will be banned (previous limit was 15), the bar will be raised for obtaining a may-issue carry permit and “armor piercing” bullets for the FN 5.7mm will be prohibited. CCW permit fees will also see a sharp increase. So much for Chris Christie’s work on the RTC front during 2017. NFA items are banned in the state, whether it be by-statute or by the practice of not approving their purchase. (Previous ranking: 48)
At the time of this writing, the Massachusetts House has passed a bill that would allow gun confiscation in “red flag” cases and this bill can be expected to pass out of the Senate. This may sound like a decent idea but the devil is in the details and this bill, like many of them, lacks adequate due process procedures in the minds of many gun owners. The state’s broadening of a previous pan on semi-automatics has withstood a legal challenge and remains on the books, costing the state points in the Black Rifles department. Magazines are limited to 10 rounds and no NFA items are legal to possess in the Bay State. Massachusetts gets 3 points in the RTC column as their may-issue CCW permit system does actually issue some permits. There are a surprising number of gun ranges scattered about Massachusetts, many of which are open to the public. (Previous ranking: 49)
I love Hawaii but I’m not in love with the state’s gun laws. This year saw the passage of legislation that bans “bump stocks” and certain trigger modifications. Hawaii has a may-issue RTC system that apparently issues no permits, resulting in a de facto ban on concealed carry. Magazines are limited to 10 rounds and all NFA firearms and accessories are prohibited. There is a vibrant hunting culture in the state, though, which gives many of us a reason to visit. Surprisingly, Hawaii has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the nation—45% according to one report. (Previous ranking: 47)
47. Washington, DC
Late in 2017, DC officials effectively gave in on the “good reason” requirement for concealed carry issue when they failed to challenge the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals. This means that, technically, DC is now a shall-issue jurisdiction when it comes to Right to Carry, for residents and non-residents alike. This is huge. Thanks to this change, DC jumps ahead several spots for 2018. Lest one think that DC has become a utopia for gun owners, the District still requires the registration of all firearms and many firearms and accessories are prohibited including black guns and magazines that exceed 10 rounds. DC gets zero points for the NFA category since none are legal to own. The use-of-force laws in the District strike a middle ground between requiring “retreat to the wall” and “stand your ground” and earn 4 points in the Castle Doctrine column. The District’s strict gun control laws haven’t helped it fight violent crime as it has the highest rate in the nation according to 2016 data. (Previous ranking: 51)
By the time these words are printed, the June 30th deadline to register “assault weapons” in California will have passed. A lawsuit that sought to invalidate the Assault Weapons Control Act failed, which means that the ban will be implemented. This incredibly-broad measure will criminalize gun owners overnight by merely possessing something that was previously legal. If that wasn’t enough, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsome (one of the architects of the ban) is poised to be elected Governor. The Assembly is also considering changing the age to purchase a long gun from 18 to 21. CCW permits are issued on a county-by-county basis and are difficult to obtain in many of the state’s coastal areas. Suppressors are illegal but other NFA items are permitted, though with some caveats and permitting requirements. (Previous ranking: 49)
The legislature passed a bill this year to ban “bump stocks” and other devices designed to increase a firearm’s rate of fire—this law went into effect on October 1st. This is a true ban meaning that affected items must be destroyed, exported or surrendered. The legislature also considered a bill this session that aimed to criminalize the possession of unserialized “90% receivers”, however, that measure did not pass. CT has a may-issue CCW system that does issue permits so the state gets 5 points in the CCW column—having a permit to carry is actually required to buy a handgun so, if you qualify to purchase, you qualify to carry. Connecticut’s use-of-force laws are fairly strong and suppressors are legal, but black guns and magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds are restricted. (Previous ranking: 45)
In 2018, Governor Larry Hogan signed HB 1302 implementing an “Extreme Risk Protective Order” law. This is an expansive process whereby firearms and ammunition can be seized from individuals subject to a court order. Obtaining a carry permit in Maryland is next to impossible but a federal lawsuit is challenging the state’s “good and substantial reason” requirement so stay tuned. Purchasing a handgun in Maryland requires a permit and black rifles are restricted. All NFA items are permitted in accordance with federal law so the state receives valuable points in that category. (Previous ranking: 44)
43. Rhode Island
Rhode Island’s Governor signed two bills this year: one that will create an ex parte “red flag” process and another that will ban “bump stocks” and similar accessories. Thanks to a 2015 court ruling, the state issues CCW permits if an applicant meets the statutory requirements though it is a may-issue state and the process is complicated. There is no reciprocity or recognition of other states’ permits, however, in theory, permits can be issued to non-residents. Black rifles are legal as are magazines of any size but NFA items are banned altogether unless you are a dealer. The Bay State imposes a duty to retreat when attacked outside of the home which costs the state points in the Castle Doctrine category. (Previous ranking: 43)
Delaware’s Governor John Carney led an effort to ban many semi-automatic firearms and their magazines this year and though the Senate bill was defeated in committee, as of this writing, the outcome is still uncertain. For now, the state gets full points in the Black Rifles category but that could change. Carry permits are issued on a may-issue basis and 20 states’ permits are recognized by The Small Wonder. Machine guns and suppressors are illegal but Short-Barreled Rifles and Any Other Weapons are permitted, making the NFA category a mixed bag. Only 5% of Delaware residents own guns, making it the least-armed state in the U.S. (Previous ranking: 42)
The road to concealed carry in the Land of Lincoln was a long one but concealed carry has been a reality there for five years now—somehow, the sky hasn’t fallen. Illinois issues non-resident permits but there is no reciprocity for out-of-state permits. Three anti-gun bills did pass this year: one extended waiting periods on long guns to 72 hours, another creates strict rules for gun dealers and the third will allow courts to seize firearms subject to ex parte protection orders. Black rifles and magazines are unrestricted by state law but are regulated by some municipalities, a source of current litigation. Illinois has strong use-of-force laws but is not NFA friendly. (Previous ranking: 41)
Colorado’s legislature did no harm in 2018 but that didn’t stop the People’s Republic of Boulder from passing its own ban on black guns, certain magazines, and an age limit. Even the city attorney admits that the ordinance has no “teeth” and a lawsuit has been filed to challenge it. State law currently bans magazines holding more than 15 rounds. Colorado’s receives 7 points for its CCW statute and no restrictions are placed NFA items, earning it full points. Despite a recent shift against gun ownership by many in the state, Colorado has a very strong shooting culture and, of course, is a premiere hunting destination. Colorado remains home to two of the top gunsmithing programs in the nation which are housed at Trinidad State Junior College and the Colorado School of Trades. (Previous ranking: 39)
Not much legislative action that would affect gun owners took place in Minnesota this year. The big news is that the current Governor, who has advocated for gun control as recently as this year, is not seeking a third-term. Minnesota has had a shall-issue CCW permit system since 2003 and that permit is valid for both concealed and open carry. There is also a Castle Doctrine law on the books. C&R machine guns and short-barreled shotguns are legal, as are suppressors and SBRs. Minnesota passed a preemption law back in the 1985 which prevents municipalities from passing their own gun control ordinances. The state loses points in the Black Rifle category since a transferee permit is required, though a carry permit does satisfy the law. (Previous ranking: 41)
No anti-gun bills passed out of the legislature this year but gun owners in Washington State face a significant threat from a ballot initiative proposed by a Bloomberg-affiliated anti-gun organization. This well-funded initiative would place significant restrictions on firearm purchases and require 10-day waiting periods, mandatory training, impose a gun tax and impose age limits beyond federal law. Gun owners will need to show-up in November in order to defeat Initiative 1639. The state gets full points in the Black Rifle column but only 6 points for its NFA laws, which are a mixed-bag. The state’s strong use-of-force statute earn it full points in the Castle Doctrine category. (Previous ranking: 38)
Gun owners in the Green Mountain State took a big hit in 2018 when Governor Phil Scott signed legislation that restricts magazine capacity, raises the age limit to purchase long guns (with some exceptions) and prohibits “bump stocks”. These laws hurt the state’s score in both the Black Rifle and Miscellaneous categories. This should be a warning to other historically pro-gun states that things can happen quickly. Vermont allows for permitless carry but does not issue permits which costs it a point. Vermont has the second lowest violent crime rate in the nation and roughly a third of Vermonters are gun owners. Vermont drops 17 points this year thanks to the actions of its state government. (Previous ranking: 20)
36. New Mexico
A “bump stock” ban was introduced by the New Mexico Legislature but failed to advance. The state has a somewhat-antiquated CCW law that earns it 5 points. The state gets 10 points in both the NFA and Black Rifle categories. The state’s use-of-force laws could use some improvement so it only receives 5 points in that category. New Mexico has lots of wide-open spaces and some good shooting opportunities, the crown-jewel of which is NRA’s Whittington Center in Raton, near the Colorado line. (Previous ranking: 37)
In a gesture in support of the rights of gun owners, the Iowa General Assembly proposed a resolution in support of adding the Right to Keep and Bear Arms to the state’s constitution since it is one of a few states that makes no such recognition. The Assembly must pass the Resolution again in 2019 in order for it to go on the ballot. Iowa issues CCW permits on a shall-issue basis, earning it 8 points. The Hawkeye State loses key points in the NFA column as it restricts most items other than suppressors. (Previous ranking: 36)
Nebraska passed a law this year to protect the identity of gun owners and defeated legislation that would have banned suppressors and “multiburst trigger activators”. The gap in Nebraska’s gun laws remains the lack of a preemption statute that would prevent municipalities from enacting their own gun control ordinances. Nebraska’s “shall issue” CCW law, which I spent three years sheparding through the unique Unicameral Legislature more than a decade ago, earns the Cornhusker State 7 points. The state gets full points in both the Black Rifle and NFA categories as neither are restricted by state law. Use-of-force laws are relatively weak and only earn the state 5 points. (Previous ranking: 35)
Oregon passed a law this year extending prohibited possessor status to “family and household members”. If we are reading this statute correctly, merely being in a relationship with someone who cannot legally possess a firearm strips you of your own right to be armed. The big threat in Oregon is the initiative on this November’s ballot which would ban or restrict a broad variety of rifles, shotguns and handguns, as well as magazines. For now, Oregon maintains full points in the Black Rifles category but passage of this ballot measure would hurt its score significantly. Oregon’s use-of-force laws earn it 8 points. Thunder Ranch is located here and is a mecca for shooters looking to touch some of Clint Smith’s magic. (Previous ranking: 34)
Pennsylvania’s gun owners have spent the last several years caught in the crossfire between the state legislature and anti-gun municipalities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburg. Though they came close to passing a preemption bill to solve those issues late in 2017, the bill never made it over the finish line. The legislature is currently considering a ban on “accelerated trigger activators” as well as a bill relating to “extreme risk protection orders”. Pennsylvania has a shall-issue CCW statute and state statutes do not discriminate against Black Rifles or NFA items. The state has strong use-of-force laws which earn it 8 points. (Previous ranking: 33)
31. South Dakota
The South Dakota legislature passed, and the Governor signed, two relevant bills during this year’s session. One bill adds a NICS requirement to the state’s CCW permit process while the other allows for carry in and around non-public schools and churches. South Dakota is a shall-issue CCW state that actually offers three classes of permits, the least-expensive of which only costs $10 for five years. The only category that costs this state key points is its use-of-force laws, which are surprisingly-weak. (Previous ranking: 32)
The Commonwealth of Virginia was hit with more than sixty anti-gun bills during this legislative session but, thanks to the hard work of Virginians on the ground, none of the bills were successful in passing. For a place that has become increasingly “purple” politically, Virginia remains a good state for gun owners. State law allows for open carry without a permit and CCW permits are issued on a shall-issue basis. Additionally, Virginia recognizes permits from all states. The state gets 10 points for its strong use-of-force laws and receives fairly high marks all-around but for a few particulars including a requirement that machine guns be registered with the state authorities in addition to the BATFE. (Previous ranking: 31)
It was a slow year in Maine in terms of gun-related legislation, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Maine gets 10 points in the Right to Carry category since it issues permits but also allows for permitless carry. The state also gets full points in the Black Rifle and NFA columns since neither are regulated by state law. The only thing hurting Maine is a weak set of use-of-force laws that require individuals to retreat, if possible, before using deadly force outside of the home. The good news is that Maine has the lowest violent crime rate in the nation. (Previous ranking: 30)
The Ohio legislature is currently considering legislation that would place the burden of proof in self-defense cases onto the prosecution. Passage of this bill would give the state’s use-of-force laws a boost. The state has strong concealed carry laws that earn it 8 points in that column. Ohio gets 10 points in both the NFA and Black Rifle categories. Camp Perry, east of Toledo, is a competitive shooting mecca. (Previous ranking: 29)
The Louisiana Legislature put two pro-gun bills on Governor John Bel Edwards’ desk this year and he signed both. These bills strengthened the state’s concealed carry laws relating to schools and churches. Several anti-gun bills were defeated as well. The state’s CCW laws are relatively good but the list of prohibited locations is long and permit fees are relatively high. The state gets high marks for its use-of-force laws as well as in the Black Rifle and NFA categories. (Previous ranking: 28)
The Michigan Legislature failed to pass its permitless carry bill in 2017 as well as a bill that would narrow the list of locations where carry is prohibited. The state currently receives 7 points in the CCW category thanks to some improvements made to the permit process a few years ago. Michigan has strong use-of-force statutes that earn it 10 points. The state receives full points in both the NFA and Black Gun columns but registration of handguns is required. (Previous ranking: 27)
25. North Carolina
North Carolina had one of the shortest legislative sessions in its modern era this year so no pro-gun bills were considered. The state has good Right to Carry laws that earn it 8 points and doesn’t restrict Black Rifles or NFA items. North Carolina does have a handgun permit requirement which costs it some miscellaneous points. The ACADEMI firearms training center, formerly known as Blackwater, is located in Moyock. (Previous ranking: 26)
The Nevada Legislature hasn’t been in session since our last survey so nothing has changed in terms of state firearm laws. Nevada gets 8 points for its CCW statue and 10 points in the Black Rifle and NFA columns. The state’s deserts offer many places to shoot and Las Vegas is home to the largest shooting industry event in the nation, the Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show. (Previous ranking: 25)
The Florida Legislature was the epicenter of the gun control movement this spring, with hundreds of protesters gathering at the capital in the wake of the Parkland Shooting. I was there and it was ugly. The Legislature responded by passing a bill that banned long gun sales to 18-20 year olds, banned “bump stocks”, created a three-day waiting period for nearly all firearm sales and created a means of seizing firearms via “Risk Protection Orders”. The bright spot in the bill was the establishment of a “Guardian” program that would arm certain school officials but the 132 hours of mandated training, including 80 hours of firearms training, seems pretty excessive. Oh, and don’t forget the additional 12 hours of required diversity training. But for this latest affront to Florida’s law-abiding gun owners, the state remains highly-ranked in our survey thanks to one of the nation’s most successful shall-issue permit systems, a thriving competitive shooting culture and an excellent Castle Doctrine statute. (Previous ranking: 12)
22. South Carolina
A permitless carry bill was introduced in the South Carolina Senate this year but it never advanced from its subcommittee. South Carolina gets 7 points in the CCW column, mainly due to its limited permit reciprocity. The state’s use-of-force laws are strong, which earn it maximum points. South Carolina also gets a full 10 points for its NFA and Black Rifle laws as it relies on federal statues alone. Like most of the south, the Palmetto State has a strong gun culture and places to shoot are many. (Previous ranking: 24)
Governor Scott Walker signed legislation this year that helps protect shooting ranges from predatory regulations but the permitless carry bill that was pending during our last report failed to pass out of either chamber. The state has a strong RTC law that earns it 8 points and it receives 10 points in both the Black Rifles and NFA categories. Wisconsin also has strong use-of-force laws that earn it maximum points in that column. (Previous ranking: 23)
Not much to report as far as legislative activity in Indiana but sometimes no news is good news. Indiana has a good Right to Carry statute that earns it 8points. Out-of-state CCW permits are universally recognized in the state and open carry is legal. The Hoosier State gets 10 points in both the NFA and Black Rifle categories and 8 points for its use-of-force statute. (Previous ranking: 21)
Once again, the Alabama Legislature failed to pass a permitless carry bill. That said, the state receives 8 points for its existing Right to Carry statute. Permits are issued without a training requirement and, in most counties, are inexpensive to obtain. Alabama does not restrict Black Rifles, magazines or NFA items gaining it full points in those categories. Open carry is legal and, as an Alabama resident, I can assure you that the state is extremely hospitable to gun owners. Ranges are well-distributed throughout the state and the competitive shooting landscape is positive. (Previous ranking: 18)
17. New Hampshire
The Granite State remains an extremely pro-gun spot in increasingly anti-gun New England. As we reported last year, Governor Chris Sununu signed permitless carry legislation in 2017. The state also has a shall-issue permit system so it receives full points for Right to Carry. New Hampshire also gets full points in the Black Rifles, NFA and Castle Doctrine categories. (Previous ranking: 15)
Mississippi gets 10 points in the RTC column thanks to a permitless carry statute and a shall-issue permit system. An enhanced carry permit is designed to allow citizens to carry in places such as courtrooms but that law is apparently not always honored in the way it was intended. The good news is that the Mississippi Supreme Court recently ruled that holders of enhanced permits can bring firearms into courtrooms. Mississippi does not restrict Black Rifles or NFA items so it receives full points in both categories. (Previous ranking: 16)
15. West Virginia
Once again, the West Virginia Legislature has moved the ball forward for gun owners. This year, Governor Jim Justice signed a bill protecting the rights of gun owners to carry firearms in employer-owned parking lots. The state also legalized Sunday hunting on public lands. West Virginia gets 10 points for the RTC, NFA, and Black Rifle categories. Last year in this article I challenged the legislature to repeal the state law that prohibits displaying a firearm in a store window: I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a 2019 repeal. (Previous ranking: 13)
There was little real legislative activity relating to firearms this year in Kentucky, meaning that the state’s score remains a constant. Kentucky earns 8 points for a strong shall-issue CCW law. The state also receives 10 points in the NFA, Black Rifle and Castle Doctrine categories. The biannual Machine Gun Shoot and Military Gun Show at Knob Creek Range is something to behold. (Previous ranking: 14)
13. North Dakota
North Dakota joined the ranks of resident-only permitless carry states in 2017 but there was some question of whether the law applied to citizens in vehicles. An Attorney General opinion released in December clarifies that, yes, permitless carry is legal in a vehicle so long as the individual has a valid ND Driver’s License or ID card. The only place where North Dakota loses points is on its use-of-force laws, which aren’t quite as strong as some other states. (Previous ranking: 7)
Tennessee passed legislation this year which would allow off-duty law enforcement officers to protect schools under certain circumstances, which is good news, but little else changed in terms of the state’s gun laws. Tennessee receives maximum points in every category except CCW, where it earns 8 points for a shall-issue permit system. Tennessee offers plenty of places to shoot and is home to some excellent training facilities. (Previous ranking: 11)
More than twenty anti-gun bills were filed in Missouri this year but, fortunately, none became law. As we reported last year, Missouri implemented permitless carry in January of 2017 giving the state 10 points in the Right to Carry column. Missouri receives 10 points in almost every category thanks to strong use-of-force laws, no restrictions on Black Rifles or NFA items, and a strong overall legal framework for gun owners. (Previous ranking: 10)
Not much happened in the Georgia Legislature this year on the gun front but the state maintains its positions as one of the most pro-gun spots in the nation. Georgia has one of the strongest CCW laws in the nation as “permit” states go and also gets 10 points in the NFA, Black Rifle and Castle Doctrine categories. Though we saw many legislators get weak-kneed this year, Georgia’s lawmakers killed a tax break for Delta Air Lines when the state ended a discount agreement with NRA: the move cost the Atlanta-based airline tens of millions of dollars. Boycotts work both ways. (Previous ranking: 9)
The Texas legislature only meets during odd-numbered years so nothing much changed for gun owners in the Lone Star State this year. Texas does well across the board in our survey thanks to a strong RTC law (that now includes open carry), strong use-of-force laws, and its lack of restrictions on black rifles, magazines or NFA items. The NRA’s Annual Meeting was held in Dallas this year and you could have fit all of the protesters in a VW Beetle. (Previous ranking: 8)
The Montana Legislature didn’t meet in 2018 so this state maintained the status quo in terms of its very strong gun laws. As we reported last year, the state’s Governor vetoed a permitless carry bill in 2017. The state gets 8 points for its shall-issue permit system and 10 points in every other category. Montana’s Flathead Valley is home to numerous firearm manufacturers as well as custom gunmakers such as the legendary Jerry Fisher. (Previous ranking: 5)
Utah remains a very strong state for gun owners and, but for a CCW permit requirement, it would be a contender for the top spot. The state receives full points nearly across the board thanks to strong use-of-force laws, a lack of individual restrictions that would affect Black Rifles or NFA items and a preemption statute that keeps the cities out of the gun control business. Utah is home to several firearm and accessory manufacturers and is a great place to shoot. Credible reports indicate that Governor Gary Herbert is urging legislative leaders to adopt gun control measures in 2019 so let’s hope that the members of the House and Senate hold strong on the Second Amendment. (Previous ranking: 6)
Oklahoma’s Governor vetoed a permitless carry bill this year, costing the state points in the CCW category. Governor Mary Fallin is term-limited so Oklahomans will have a clean slate next year and a chance at full permitless carry. Under current law, Oklahoma allows permitless carry for gun owners from other states whose laws allow it and recognizes all state permits. The state does not place restrictions on Black Rifles, magazines or any NFA items. Camargo is home to the Heat Stroke Open match each July, part of the popular Precision Rifle Series. (Previous ranking: 4)
The only factor that hurt Wyoming in previous surveys was the state’s use-of-force laws. That all changed in March when Governor Matt Mead signed a bill that not only codified that there is no duty to retreat but provides protections against civil liability. Like neighboring Idaho, Wyoming is a permitless carry state for residents and also recognizes permits of all other states. Hunting and shooting opportunities are endless in Wyoming, thanks to the terrain, culture and low population. (Previous ranking:17)
A bill that would have expanded Kansas’ recognition of out of state CCW permits died in the legislative process this session but Kansas is still an excellent state for gun owners. After passing its initial CCW law in 2006, Kansas expanded to permitless carry more recently. The only place where Kansas loses a point is in the miscellaneous column, since the state lacks the thriving competitive shooting landscape and general “gun culture” that we see elsewhere. (Previous ranking: 3)
Alaska is about as pro-gun as it gets and was the first state to allow permitless carry by statute (Vermont’s law comes from a court decision). Alaska has the highest rate of gun ownership in the nation, according to available data. The only thing preventing Alaska from attaining the top spot is that its competitive shooting opportunities and firearms industry presence can’t match our top two states. Still, from a state law perspective, it one would be hard-pressed to match Alaska when it comes to being firearm-friendly. (Previous ranking: 2)
Idaho got a huge boost this year when the state updated its use-of-force laws and removed the duty to retreat—this was the only category that kept the state from a much higher rank in years past. The state also receives 9.5 points in the CCW column, since residents and active duty military members can carry without a permit. Idaho also receives full points in the NFA, Black Rifle and Miscellaneous categories, which puts it ahead of Alaska this year. (Previous ranking: 19)
An effort to weaken Arizona’s firearm law preemption statute was defeated this session, keeping the state at the number one position in our survey for the fifth straight year. Arizona receives 10 points across the board thanks to its permitless (and permitted) carry law, a strong preemption statute, excellent use-of-force laws, and a lack of restrictions on individual firearms and accessories. Beyond a great set of laws, Arizona has one of the most thriving shooting cultures in the nation, a factor that helps it maintain its spot at the top of our list. Anti-gun groups rank Arizona as the worst state in the nation in terms of gun laws; we say it’s the best. (Previous ranking: 1)
Check here for Guns & Ammo's Best States for Gun Owners in 2017
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