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States With Strictest Gun Laws

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Different states have different gun laws in the USA. Some of them have stronger laws for gun control than others. Here are the top 10 states with the strictest gun laws in the USA:

Criteria Considered for These States

Some of the criteria considered for these states with the strictest gun laws include the following:

May Carry Vs Shall Carry

Most of the states with the strictest gun laws in the USA have a May Carry permit policy instead of a Shall Carry policy.

May Carry states in the USA will not assure you of getting a gun license. It does not matter if you qualify by virtue of completing a background check or firearm training, meeting all state requirements, or paying permit fees. The state has the final say on who gets a permit and may only issue based on the lawmaker’s discretion. This policy makes them limit those who can possess firearms and possibly remove dangerous weapons from the hands of criminals.

But the case is not the same for Shall Carry states. In these states, as long as you meet all requirements necessary for a gun permit, you are obliged to get your license. Issuance is not based on any discretion. You even have the power to challenge the system if you think you meet all requirements and do not get a permit.

Although some of the strictest gun law states have Shall Carry policies, they back this up with tough requirements like completing a licensed firearm training or a background check. Some others may even ask for sureties before issuing the license.

Age Restriction

Another thing common with states with tough gun laws is their age limit for the possession of firearms. Many states require eighteen years old as the minimum age for firearm possession. Some states will even allow teenagers under eighteen years old to possess a firearm as long as they have permission from parents or guardians

However, most of the states with strict laws have this age at twenty-one years old. The minimum age limit of twenty-one does not only affect the possession of firearms, it also involves the application of gun permits and the transfer of firearms between individuals.

Permit Restrictions

Permit restrictions are another way states with strict gun laws restrict the possession of firearms within their territory. These states will only issue permits to residents of the state so that non-residents are not allowed to possess firearms without permits.

They also prohibit some set of individuals from permit applications. People who are not allowed to apply for gun permits in these states include:

  • Sex offenders
  • Domestic violence offenders
  • Anyone previously involved in a felony act
  • Dishonorably discharged military personnel
  • Mentally deranged individuals
  • Fraudsters
  • Drug violators
  • Terrorism related offenders
  • Federally prohibited individuals

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Top 10 States with Strictest Gun Laws & Why


California became one of the strictest gun law states in the country as a bid to put an end to its reoccurring gun violence and death. They enforced some laws that made them different and more restricted than most other states in the USA.

Some of their firearm restrictions include the ban of high-end magazines and assault weapons. They limit the access of certain people to the purchase of firearms. People who are termed high risk and those guilty of domestic violence were prohibited from purchasing firearms. They also require a complete background check from anyone looking to buy any type of firearm within the state.

New Jersey

New Jersey is one of the most progressive states in the USA when it comes to gun control and safety. They have some of the stringent gun laws that residents must adapt to before possessing firearms.

To possess firearms in the state you need a permit, and New Jersey does not accept gun permits from other states in the USA. The state is a May Carry state, so lawmakers have a huge say on if a resident will get a permit or not.

Permits in New Jersey are issued at a very personal level, by law enforcement in a local municipality. They also require that every gun user complete a background check before the possession of firearms.


The year 2012 saw a drastic change in the gun laws and control in the state of Connecticut. This was after a mass shooting that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the Newton district.

Although the state still allows open carry, they passed the same control measures as California. The possession and purchase of assault weapons within the state was prohibited. They have a May Carry policy where the department of Emergency Service and Public Protection will only issue a permit based on discretion.

While waiting for the final permit from the DESPP, you will first receive a provisional one from the law enforcement agency.

New York

New York is another state with rigorous gun laws. They prohibit the possession and sales of assault firearms. Although semi-automatic firearms are not prohibited, it is mandatory that their magazines do not exceed 10 rounds.

Background checks are also compulsory in the state, and to purchase firearms, you must be at least 21 years old. Being a May-issue state, New York will only issue permits based on discretion and this is done at the local counties. Only residents of the state, per time residents, and employees in the state can apply for firearm permits.


Hawaii is another May Carry state for the possession of firearms. Before applying for the permit, you must provide valid reasons for owning a firearm. The local sheriff of a country will then accept your application based on discretion.

The age limit for the possession of a firearm in Hawaii is twenty-one years old and a person must not have gun prohibition at the federal level or from another state. The state gun permit can be used for both open and concealed carry.

Anyone that possesses a firearm in Hawaii without a permit will be charged with a Class B felony and will be prosecuted.


Maryland's constant firearm review makes them one of the states with the strictest gun laws. They have lawmakers who are looking to adopt several gun restrictions. In 2018, they introduce new measures to prohibit bump stocks such as the ones in AR-15 rifles.

In addition, you need a permit to open and conceal carry in Maryland. Even with the permit, you are still prohibited from possessing firearms in certain areas of the state. Maryland also requires you to complete a training permit that lasts at least 16 hours before possessing a firearm.


Massachusetts's strict gun laws have made it one of the states with the least gun death rate in the USA. Despite the gun control in this state, residents can still purchase firearms with no hassle.

In terms of issuing permits, Massachusetts has a May Carry policy. So regardless of if you qualify for the permit, the state has the discretion to either issue or not. Also, if you are deemed unfit to possess a firearm after getting a license, the state has the power to revoke it.

The age limit to apply for a firearm permit in Massachusetts is twenty-one years old. You must also complete a firearm course before you are issued a permit in the state.


Illinois has requirements that must be met before the application of firearms in the state. Failure to meet all requirements will lead to a rejection in the permit application.

Illinois gun permits can only be used for concealed carry. The state completely prohibits the open carry of firearms within its territory. The age limit for the possession of firearms in the state is twenty-one years old, and the state bans the manufacturing and assembling of firearms.

In Illinois, you cannot make use of machine guns and assault weapons. Ammunitions with armor-piercing are also banned completely. To obtain a gun permit, you also need to undergo firearm training conducted by a state-licensed instructor.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island is one of the May issue states in the USA and firearm licenses are issued based on the discretion of the attorney general of the police chief. Although they issue non-residents permits, you can only apply for one if you have a permit issued from your original state of resident.

The age requirement for possession of firearms in Rhode Island is twenty-one. And you must have 3 references attesting to your good cause of owning a firearm. Rhode Island only requires permits from other states to issue non-residents permits because they will not accept any other state permit for the possession of firearms within their territory.

Washington DC

Washington DC requires a gun license for both concealed and open carry of firearms in the state. They also have a list of requirements that must be met before the application of firearm permits. Completing a criminal record background check is also mandatory for the possession of a firearm in the state.

The state gives its age limit of firearm possession as twenty-one years old, however, anyone with the prohibition to possess firearms at federal or other state-level are not allowed in Washington DC. There is also a prohibition on the transfer, assembling, and manufacturing of firearms in the state.

Even with permits to open and concealed carry, Washington restricts possession of firearms in places such as courthouses and schools.

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