8 States With The Strictest Firearm Laws (And the 6 Most Lenient States) 

Firearm laws vary greatly across the U.S. While some states make it difficult to purchase, own, or carry them, other jurisdictions have virtually no restrictions. These are the states with the strictest firearm laws and how they affect residents.

1: California 

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Based on the Gifford’s scorecard, California offers the strictest firearm laws in the nation. They include 10-day waiting periods, criminal background checks, and mental health checks. California has the 7th lowest fatalities by firearm rate in the nation despite being the most populous state. 

2: New Jersey

Liberty State Park, New Jersey.
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New Jersey is the second-strictest state for firearm laws. Owners must register with the state police and pass an approved safety course. New Jersey also limits magazines to 15 rounds or less. 

3: Connecticut

Mystic, Connecticut.
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Connecticut boasts a firearm fatality rate of only six per 100,000 people and scores an A on the Gifford scorecard. In October of 2023, the state enacted more laws to protect citizens, banning open carry and putting stricter purchasing rules into effect.  

4: Hawaii

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Hawaii is taking no chances with its island paradise. Here, you must be 21 years old to own a firearm, and the state is strict about where you can carry it. Current Governor Josh Green is a retired physician who sees firearm violence as a major public health crisis. 

5: Illinois 

Chicago skyline.
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Scoring an A- on the Gifford Scale, Illinois offers some of the strictest firearm laws in the country. Unfortunately, it also has a relatively high firearm death rate, at 14.7 fatalities per 100,000 people. Many of the weapons used in Illinois come from neighboring Indiana, which has lenient firearm laws. 

6: Maryland

Annapolis, Maryland.
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In Maryland, firearm owners must be at least 21 years old and must pass a background check. There are also restrictions on weapon size and capacity. Recently, the state also passed Jaelynn’s Law, which requires weapon owners to use secure storage for their firearms. 

7: Massachusetts

Massachusetts lighthouse.
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Massachusetts requires firearm owners to obtain a license and register with the state police. They must also maintain a permit, which requires training and a background check. Massachusetts boasts one of the lowest firearm fatality rates in the nation at only 3.7 deaths per 100,000 citizens. 

8: New York 

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In New York, firearm owners must pass a stringent set of background checks. To purchase a weapon, new owners must submit two character references and provide a full mental health history. 

States Most Lenient On Firearms 

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While several states have strong firearm laws in place, almost half of the nation fails, according to the Gifford scorecard. Twenty-four out of fifty states received an “F” grade for their lax or non-existent firearm laws. The following six states are among the most lenient. 

1: Mississippi

Bridge over the Mississippi River.
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Mississippi has the highest firearm fatality rate in the nation and some of the most lenient gun laws. Firearm owners don’t need a background check to make a purchase. They also don’t need a permit to carry a concealed firearm. 

2: Alabama

Highway in Alabama.
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Alabama is another state with extremely lenient firearm laws and a high firearm fatality rate per capita. Firearm owners in the Cotton State only need to be 19 years of age, and there are no background check requirements. 

3: Louisiana

New Orleans Cathedral.
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With the second-highest number of firearm fatalities per capita (26.3 per 100,000 citizens), Louisiana also has some of the most lenient firearm laws. No background check requirements are required. However, Louisiana does require a permit for concealed carry. 

4: Wyoming

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Wyoming also fails the Gifford Scorecard and stands out as a top state for firearm fatalities. There are no permit or background check requirements. There is also no waiting period for firearm purchases. 

5: Alaska

Blue water in Alaska.
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Alaska has general restrictions on where citizens can carry firearms, and that’s about. When purchasing a firearm, there are no waiting periods or licensing requirements. They also don’t require any registration for semi-automatic weapons.

6: Montana

Mountains in Montana.
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In recent years, Montana has made its already lenient firearm laws even more tolerant. As of 2021, firearm owners can carry concealed firearms in the state without a permit. They also don’t require licensing or registration. 

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