State Watch

Here are some of the states with the strictest and weakest gun laws

Gun laws have taken center stage amid a series of mass shootings across the country and a revived interest in reform efforts.

While some states have stronger policies like strict background check requirements, others have weaker regulations like younger age restrictions on who can possess a firearm. 

Here’s a closer look at some of the states with the strongest and weakest gun laws in the U.S. 

STRONGEST LAWS

California

California leads the country with stronger gun laws than any other state with an “A” score in the most recent 2021 scorecard from Giffords, an organization dedicated to ending gun violence.

The state also topped Everytown for Gun Safety’s gun law strength rankings in 2022, which noted that California has the seventh-lowest rate of gun deaths and the seventh-lowest gun ownership rate.

In the wake of the shooting last month in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 children and two adults dead at an elementary school, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said the Golden State would “expedite commonsense gun safety laws that will protect people from gun violence.”

The package Newsom committed to signing included restrictions on the sale of firearms to minors and so-called ghost guns, or unlicensed kits to build untraceable firearms.

It would also create “private right of action to limit spread of illegal assault weapons and ghost guns” and enable gun violence victims and governments to sue manufacturers and sellers of firearms.

New Jersey

New Jersey was the only other state to receive an “A” rating from Giffords. 

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also showed that New Jersey ranked third in the country for lowest firearm mortality rates in the country, behind only Hawaii and Massachusetts.

Everytown ranked New Jersey slightly lower, as it came in eighth for its gun law strength in 2022. The organization noted, however, that the Garden State has the lowest rate of firearm ownership in the country. 

One day after the Uvalde shooting, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) pressed for action on gun reform in the state.

“I introduced the comprehensive Gun Safety 3.0 package over a year ago and this moment demands that the Legislature finally take action,” he said, adding that the “proposed laws are hardly revolutionary.” 

“They would mandate safe storage of guns. They would ensure that those seeking to buy a gun are actually trained in the safe handling of that gun,“ the governor added. “They would give police tools to better track the paths of firearms used to commit crimes. They would prohibit the sale of weapons that can bring down helicopters.”

Connecticut

After the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School devastated Connecticut, the state moved forward with several new gun reform efforts ranging from universal background checks and an expansion of the state’s assault weapons ban to restricting sales of high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Now, Connecticut ranked third for the highest gun law strength in the country with an “A-” from Giffords.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) who has been outspoken about his support for gun laws since Sandy Hook, is leading Democrats in talks on a new federal gun bill in response to the most recent shootings.

Hawaii

Data from the CDC shows Hawaii has the lowest firearm mortality rate of any state in the country.

Hawaii was also fourth for Gifford’s rankings of gun laws. It was second in Everytown’s rankings for overall gun law strength, and it tied with New Jersey for the lowest rate of gun ownership as only 9 percent of Hawaiians have guns in their homes. 

In 2020, Guns & Ammo magazine ranked Hawaii the second-worst for gun-friendly states, behind New York and followed by Massachusetts, New Jersey and California.

WEAKEST GUN LAWS

Arkansas

Arkansas ranked worst, according to Giffords, in terms of its gun law strength as it has passed laws preventing gun-free zones in cities and repealed a permit to carry law.

While Arkansas was near the bottom of Everytown’s list as well, it remained ahead of Idaho and Mississippi and was tied with Montana in that group’s rankings. 

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, last month said that he would be willing to engage in a conversation on raising the minimum age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21 and “AR-15-style weapons.”

“You have to at least have a conversation about that,” Hutchinson said on CNN last month.

Wyoming

Wyoming was second to last in the Giffords list.

The state eliminated a residency requirement to carry a gun in public without a permit or background check.

The state has the third-highest rate of gun deaths in the country, according to the CDC. 

The state has taken no steps to address gun violence and has looked to weaken gun laws, Everytown reported.

With 25.9 gun deaths per 100,000 people, the state’s gun deaths are up 90 percent from the national average, Giffords noted. 

Idaho

Idaho scored an “F” from Giffords for its weak gun laws. 

It ranked fourth-highest in terms of gun deaths, and is one of five states to have the highest gun homicide rate, according to Everytown. 

The state has made it more difficult for local police to enforce federal gun laws, and lacks requirements for universal background checks, assault weapon restrictions and open carry regulations among other policies recommended by Giffords. 

In 2020, Guns & Ammo magazine ranked Idaho the second best state for gun owners behind only Arizona. 

Missouri 

Missouri ranked 47th in the country for the strength of its gun laws and received an “F” score from GIffords. But Everytown ranked it 41st of all states in the country. 

Notably, St. Louis had one of the highest rates of gun murders of all cities across the country, Everytown noted.

The state has even imposed a policy that makes police officers personally liable for a $50,000 fine if they enforce federal gun laws, Giffords reported.

Some local leaders such as Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas (D) have pushed for tougher gun laws in the state.

“We need stronger and tougher laws to protect our children,” Lucas said earlier this week. “Protect our grocery stores, protect our police officers. If you back the blue, you back common-sense gun reform.”

Tags Chris Murphy Gavin Newsom gun laws Phil Murphy Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting Uvalde shooting

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