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Gun Laws by State

The Complete Guide

Welcome to the most comprehensive guide on gun laws by U.S. state!

We've built this guide to provide you with everything necessary to avoid legal problems with your gun and CCW.

Keep reading below for all the specifics...

State List
States With
Deadly Force Laws
States That
Ban Open Carry
States With NICS
Check-Private Sales
States With
Firearm Registry

Overview of State Gun Laws

America - the only country in the world where you are legally allowed to own a firearm. Our constitution has given you the absolute right to legally carry a weapon in all 50 states.

However - you must be aware that gun laws within the U.S. are very different between the states. Each state has the right to enact legislation that varies from the Federal law of the U.S. Constitution. Because of these state rights, there are wide variations to how each state views its gun laws, with each state taking a different approach to conceal carry, self-defense, and permit laws.

Some states can be more restrictive than others, and in most cases, it's up to local law enforcement about how they will enforce either the federal or local laws. Be warned though - the Supreme Court has ruled in Printz v United States that local municipalities are NOT obligated to enforce federal firearms laws, it's up to their discretion.

As you'll see below - there are a variety of states which do not overtly protect your rights to carry a firearm. However, there are 40 states which strict provisions that protect your right to bear and own firearms, which is nearly the same as the U.S. constitution.

Firearm Carry Laws

Fundamentally, there are only 2 options for carrying a firearm in the U.S. and below we'll go more into detail about these types, but for now, here are the basics:

  1. Open Carry
  2. Concealed Carry

Open Carry - This is a description for carrying a firearm that is visible to everyone in sight - like a gun in a holster not concealed by a shirt.

Concealed Carry - This describes a firearm that is NOT visible to those within a certain distance. The firearm is hidden from sight.

Now, each individual state determines how they'll issue permits, or if a permit will need to be required for concealing or open carry. Because of the U.S. constitution, all states should allow some form of carrying, but this is dependent on the discretion of the state. For instance, New York does not allow for open carry even if you own a CCW permit and are legally trained with a firearm.

We deem these states with a "May Issue" designation.

Open Carry

Open carry is a designation where you're allowed to carry a weapon in full visibility. Basically if a state has an open carry policy you're allowed to carry the weapon without a permit required.

But you need to be fully aware of the laws because there are certain states with strict designations about when and where you're allowed to openly carry. For instance, in Wisconsin you can open carry a long rifle with only a hunter safety course, but cannot openly carry a handgun.

California though will not allow for open carry under any circumstance, except for law enforcement.

Carry In Vehicle

There are 3 different issue policies or groupings for concealed carry. There was previously a designation called "No Issue" which was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court for being unconstitutional. The 3 main categories include:

  1. Unrestricted - This indicates you are unrequired to have a permit for carrying a firearm. This has also been designated as "Constitutional Carry"
  2. Shall Issue - You're required to have a permit if you wish to carry a firearm. You will only need to meet minimum requirements like background check, age, or training. These requirements are set by the state.
  3. May Issue - This is a designation for a state with very restrictive laws for getting a permit. To conceal carry within this state a permit is required, but we've gone ahead and indicated the various laws and complications you'll experience trying to get one. States like California, New York, and Hawaii are an example of states with restrictive laws requiring a thorough application on why you require a gun permit.

"May Issue" states are beginning to be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court because of unlawful discrimination towards citizens, but you must still be aware of these rules and laws to avoid any unnecessary fines or jail time.

Firearm Registration

Firearm registration means that you as a citizen who lawfully owns a weapon are required by your state government to "officially" register your weapon. AKA you've got to associate your name with the ID marker tied to your gun, and this data is kept with the government.

Now, I but "officially" within quotation because even though most states do NOT require gun registration, they'll still track your weapon purchase by collecting sales data via your credit card.

This is a highly controversial topic within the United States and it's a law currently being discussed by the Supreme Court for release within the next 2 years.

Within 4 states there is a requirement for you to register your gun with the state police department.

The states are:

California, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, and the District of Columbia.

States with Gun Registries

These States Have Official Gun Registries

  • California - The California registry is regularly kept updated by the CDoJ or California Department of Justice. The information required includes full name, address, fingerprints and serial number of the weapon. However, if you've owned the weapon before 1991 you will not need to register it.
  • District of Columbia - Here you're required to register the serial number along with your name and address to the D.C. Police.
  • Hawaii - Same as California for information required except you the data base is maintained by the state, but Hawaii additionally requires a 5 day waiting period from purchase of the firearm before bringing home.
  • Maryland - this state only requires you to register an automatic weapon or handgun to the local police department.
  • New York - You're required to register a handgun only which ties the seriel number and your name and address together. If you possess a handgun without it registered you'll be subject to expensive fines. Please know there is a $3 fee associated with registering the weapon.

States That Collect Data on Gun Sales

  • Michigan - Handgun sales must be reported to your local police station.
  • New Jersey - You must provide a copy of the purchase permits to the New Jersey police. They will maintain the record of transfer or purchase.
  • Washington -All licensed dealers are required to deliver a report of handgun sales to the local police.

Stand Your Ground Laws

Castle Doctrine - or more commonly "Stand Your Ground" laws allow for individual citizens to defend themselves and their property with deadly force. Stand Your Ground laws specifically indicate you have no duty to retreat if in danger, and this law has been enacted within 27 states.

You must know there are variations between the states about what constitutes a stand your ground case. One example is they'll look into the possibility of using non-lethal force before the use of deadly force. Here are high-level conditions for Stand Your Ground:

  • An attempt to unlawfully enter an occupied residence or vehicle.
  • There must be reasonable suspicion by the occupants of a house that the intruder will cause bodily harm or death to the person.
  • The intruder cannot have been lawfully allowed to enter, or been provoked by the occupants.
  • You cannot classify law enforcement as intruders or leverage stand your ground laws against police. This includes forced entry for on-premise arrests

Duty to Retreat

The opposite of Stand Your Ground is called Duty to Retreat where you're legally required to first retreat if you're attacked. You can only use deadly force if there's no option for retreat or you would be put in further danger by retreating.

State Gun Laws in The USA

Gun Law Rating

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