Editor’s Note: The U.S. Concealed Carry Association is unable to rank every state, especially as there are no universal criteria for what makes a state gun-friendly. A great deal of consideration was put into choosing the below criteria and verifying which states meet them. If you do not see your state in either of the two “tiers,” it does not necessarily mean your state is not gun-friendly. To learn more about your state’s gun laws, visit the Concealed Carry Reciprocity & Gun Laws Map.
You may have heard individuals or organizations grade or score states based on their firearms laws from the least to most restrictive. Determining if a state is “gun-friendly” is a matter of opinion, but there is some truth to it. Are you curious about which states are the friendliest to gun owners? Or the least? Well, we’ve compiled a list for you. Hopefully, for your own sake, your home state is at the top of the list.
Top Gun-Friendly States
Our USCCA gun laws expert came up with 13 criteria based on concealed carriers’ questions about purchasing, traveling with and defending with a firearm. The No. 1 factor in determining how friendly a state is toward gun owners was whether people could carry concealed. (Learn why open carry isn’t always a good idea.) Although no state in the U.S. allows all of the gun-friendly measures listed below, nine states permit most of these:
- Permitless carry, constitutional carry or unrestricted concealed carry for anyone who can legally possess a firearm based on the minimum age listed (except where noted)
- No permit required to purchase handguns
- No waiting period imposed on handgun purchases
- No background checks required for private transfers
- No handgun registration
- No magazine-capacity limits
- No ammunition restrictions
- No red flag laws
- Vehicle carry permitted without a permit
- Possession of a handgun on private property without a permit is allowed
- State laws have preemption (so, no concern about local restrictions)
- Castle Doctrine statute(s)
- Stand Your Ground statute(s) in some locations
The nine states that are the most favorable to gun owners include:
- Alaska (permitless carry if at least 18 years old)
- Arizona (permitless carry if at least 21 years old)
- Arkansas (permitless carry if at least 18 years old)
- Idaho (permitless carry if at least 18 years old)
- Mississippi (permitless carry if at least 18 years old)
- New Hampshire (permitless carry if at least 18 years old)
- South Dakota (permitless carry if at least 18 years old)
- Utah (permitless carry if at least 21 years old)
- West Virginia (permitless carry if at least 21 years old)
The Second Tier
Five more states meet nearly all of the criteria listed above, but either have ammunition restrictions or a waiting period for purchases. These states are:
- Kansas (permitless carry if at least 21 years old) — The sale and possession of plastic-coated handgun ammunition is prohibited.
- Kentucky (permitless carry if at least 21 years old) — Armor-piercing ammunition is prohibited.
- Missouri (permitless carry if at least 18 years old) — The possession and sale of “exploding bullets” is prohibited.
- Montana (permitless carry if at least 18 years old) — There is a five-day waiting period for handguns, although a concealed weapons permit exempts purchasers from that waiting period.
- Oklahoma (permitless carry if at least 21 years old) — The possession or use of any “restricted bullet” is prohibited.
In addition, these three states will be added to the above list beginning on July 1, 2021:
- Iowa (permitless carry if at least 18 years old) — A permit to acquire or a valid permit to carry weapons won’t be required to purchase a firearm for private transfers, and vehicle carry will be legal without a permit.
- Tennessee (permitless carry if at least 21 years old or at least 18 years old for members of the military) — Exploding bullets are illegal.
- Wyoming (permitless carry if at least 21 years old for both open and concealed carry for residents only) — Non-residents will be allowed to concealed carry without a permit.
If you live in one of the states already listed, consider yourself fortunate. For those who live in Hawaii, California, New Jersey and New York, we feel for you. These four states are the most restrictive states in the U.S. for gun owners. The remaining states not listed here fall somewhere between the top gun-friendly states and the ones most restrictive to gun owners.
It’s important to know which states are the most and least gun-friendly, especially when traveling or purchasing a firearm for the first time. That’s why our Concealed Carry Reciprocity Map & Gun Laws by State is an essential resource for every gun owner. Use it regularly, and share it with those who are not familiar with it. It can keep you out of a world of trouble and may help you reconsider relocating to or visiting a specific state.
The information contained on this website is provided as a service to USCCA, Inc. members and the concealed carry community, and does not constitute legal advice. Although we attempt to address all areas of concealed carry laws in all states, we make no claims, representations, warranties, promises or guarantees as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information disclosed. Legal advice must always be tailored to the individual facts and circumstances of each individual case, and laws are constantly changing, and as such, nothing contained on this website should be used as a substitute for the advice of a lawyer.