While civilians nationwide possess an estimated 433 million guns in the U.S., according to the NSSF, it remains unclear how many of those guns are legally vs. illegally owned. And yet, lawmakers decide to use this unclear metric as a means to target their efforts to uphold the civil liberties of their constituents and promote public safety.
Objectively defining the best states for gun ownership is only a matter of researching current laws and anticipating changes based on the state’s current legislative powers. In certain states, you have lawmakers seeking to expand legal access to firearm ownership because they believe that “the only thing which stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”. In other states, you have lawmakers who believe that more laws, not more legally-owned guns in the hands of their constituents, is the best option to combat violent crime.
We believe that more legally-owned guns being permitted for use in more places by those who are not convicted felons, severely mentally ill, or substance abusers leads to less violent crime – and thus we’ve investigated the laws, the sales tax, and the lawful usability of firearms to bring you the answer as to which states are the best for legal gun ownership.
Iowa allows law-abiding citizens to carry firearms under permitless carry laws but still offers a PCW (Permit to Carry Weapons) for those over 21 years of age (those under 18 are eligible if the permit is required for work). The state honors 49 others’ CCWs, while Iowa’s citizens can carry in 33 states with a PCW.
While those purchasing firearms are still subject to federal background checks, a permit is no longer required in the mid-western state. Of course, standard sales tax also applies to all firearms and ammunition purchases, but some state legislators have supported firearms tax holidays in the past.
Citizens do have some protections with Iowa’s self-defense laws, and there’s no duty to retreat. On another note, the state is considering passing legislation to allow gun owners to keep firearms in their vehicles on school campuses. We are seeing some progress in Iowa for gun owners in the state under Governor Kim Reynolds. She was instrumental in passing legislation that stopped requiring permits for purchases, and we’re interested to see where Iowa ranks in the list of best states for gun ownership in coming years.
Utah is a constitutional carry state with no registration requirements and options for CCWs, making it possible to travel to 36 other states (with 48 states honored). While there aren’t any additional taxes, firearm purchasers will pay an additional $7.50 for background checks (those with an in-state CCW are exempt from this fee). There also aren’t any tax exemptions for firearms and ammunition purchases.
However, those in Salt Lake County do have a duty to perform background checks for person-to-person purchases. Utah also has stand-your-ground laws with no duty to retreat to protect those acting in self-defense from prosecution.
Recently, Governor Spencer Cox made remarks that he is open to discussing gun regulation measures. However, actions do speak louder than words, and the governor did sign legislation in 2022 to keep local municipalities from enacting gun control restrictions.
Georgia allows those over 21 who are lawfully permitted to possess firearms to carry a firearm in some places. The state honors carry permits from 32 other states, and 33 states accept Georgia’s WCL. Among the standard licensure requirements, those with previous mental illness cannot legally possess firearms (as is the case with many states due to Federal background checks).
Georgia does not require residents to register their firearms, and you won’t need a purchase permit to acquire one from an FFL. Georgians also won’t receive any tax credits on firearms or ammunition purchases.
The state also has stand-your-ground laws with no duty to retreat. This means that if a person acts (according to a reasonable individual) in self-defense, they may not be prosecuted, even if the situation occurs outside of the individual’s residence.
Brian Kemp recently signed legislation that made it possible for Georgians to openly carry firearms in the state without a permit.
Ohio also has permitless carry for those over the age of 21 (if they are lawfully allowed to possess a firearm. However, residents who wish to obtain the state’s CHL can take an 8-hour course and apply. Ohio CHLs are lawful in 38 states (with Ohio accepting permits from 49 others).
You won’t have to go through a permit process, additional background checks (outside of federal ones), or registrations to obtain a firearm in Ohio. However, purchasers are subject to the state’s standard sales tax for firearms and ammunition unless a bill like H.B. 471 passes the state legislature exempting some sales from taxation.
Those who feel they must use their firearms in an act of self-defense will be given a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Citizens have no duty to retreat and also have stand-your-ground protections. Ohio also affords some civil liability protections.
However, Florida’s spot on this list is a bit flimsy with Governor Mike DeWine’s newly proposed legislation. Currently, the governor is requesting his legislators to consider Safety Protective Orders, which gives the state power to confiscate firearms. But we should also mention that a court hearing would be held within 3 days of confiscation (which is better than TN Governor Bill Lee’s request).
Florida is one of the newest additions to this list because it just enacted permitless carry. However, this law does not go into effect until July of 2023 (which is important, depending on when you’re reading this). The bill removes existing requirements for the state for individuals to possess a concealed weapons permit. However, those who like to travel will enjoy reciprocity in 37 other states. Florida also honors CCWs from 35 states in the U.S.
Florida also has its own standards (aside from federal background checks) for firearm purchases. Which further limits gun ownership in the Panhandle state. Florida issues no tax exemptions for firearms, but you also don’t have to register your firearms in the state.
The state has protections for those who act in self-defense, and there’s no duty to retreat as long as a reasonable person believes the individual acted appropriately for the situation. Lastly, Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed the concealed carry legislation, so we don’t expect Florida to fall off of this list.
Arizona is one of the most 2A-friendly states in the Union. The state is open carry, and it’s also a shall-issue permit state (meaning those who qualify can get their CCW). Those over 18 can carry a firearm without a permit, but only those over 21 can purchase handguns.
The state’s CWP (Conceal Weapon Permit) is valid in a whopping 36 other states, and those traveling to AZ can open carry in most places. If you ever find yourself in a threatening situation, AZ does have a Castle Doctrine, and there’s no duty to retreat.
Firearms are subject to the state sales tax but exempt from the TPT (transaction privilege tax) as of January 1, 2023. Finally, Arizona sits comfortably near the top of our list at the moment. But with new Governor Katie Hobbs, we can’t be sure the state will remain on this list. Her voting record does not comfortably align with other Pro-2A governors.
Kansas allows anyone to open carry over the age of 18 (only those of 21 can purchase handguns per federal law). Those 18 and over can apply for the state’s CCHL (Concealed Carry Handgun Licenses). You don’t have to get a CCHL in Kansas, register your firearms, or pass background checks outside of the standard federal checks.
Kansas tax rates are the same for firearms as any other goods, are there are no tax breaks for components or safe storage accessories. Kansas also has a Castle Doctrine with no duty to retreat. Citizens with a CCHL can visit 39 other states with their firearms.
Tennessee is a Constitutional Carry state where anyone over 21 who can lawfully possess a firearm can carry and conceal their weapon without a license. Those wanting to apply for a CCW must meet criteria similar to federal background checks (no felonies, orders of protection, domestic violence charges including misdemeanors, and no mental health adjudication).
Tennessee reciprocity agreements allow resident CCW holders to travel to 37 other states while also accepting CCWs from 48 other states. While Tennessee has a history of tax exemptions for gun safety equipment, firearms purchases, and all other related equipment are currently taxed at the standard rate.
The state also has stand-your-ground and castle doctrine protections that include no duty to retreat. Of course, these protections do not cover criminal activity or situations where a reasonable person wouldn’t have acted similarly.
Tennessee also performs background checks with the state’s TBI (Tennesse Bureau of Investigation) and the federal NICS. More recently, Governor Bill Lee enacted legislation to keep these background check systems updated along with Red Flag legislation (which has yet to pass the State House).
Any resident over 18 years old can open or concealed carry a firearm in Indiana without a permit (unless prohibited from possessing a firearm). Indiana accepted CCW permits from 48 other states, and residents can travel to 32 other states with their Indiana permits.
Indiana does have Red Flag Laws where police officers have the authority to remove firearms from dangerous individuals. But courts also have the duty to rule on whether those firearms were removed lawfully within 14 days. The state also doesn’t require registration for firearms.
Residents are protected from prosecution in self-defense situations by the state’s stand-your-ground and castle doctrines with no duty to retreat. While those purchasing firearms and ammunition will pay standard sales tax, a bill is currently sitting with the State’s Means & Ways Committee to exempt firearms and ammunition.
Governor Eric Holcomb signed the bill to make Indiana a Constitutional Carry state, but also enacted legislation to stop the purchase of equipment known to convert firearms to fully automatic. Depending on your 2A stance, this could be a positive or negative for gun owners in the state.
Kentuckians over the age of 21 can conceal carry (as lawfully permitted to do so) without a CCW. The state accepts CCWs from all 50 states, while residents can travel to 37 other states with their Kentucky permits (CCDW).
Kentuckians must pass the federal NICS background check before purchasing firearms from an FFD, but there are no firearm registration requirements. Citizens may be protected from prosecution when using deadly force to protect life and property. Firearms purchases are subject to standard sales tax, but the state is considering tax exemptions.
After the latest mass shooting at a Louisville bank, Governor Andy Beshear’s previous position on gun control measures is questionable. While he doesn’t support another AWB, he does support stringent background checks.
Alabama allows open carry for those over 19 years of age (who are lawfully permitted to possess a firearm) to carry without a CCW. However, those who wish to conceal their firearms must apply for the state’s CCW at their local sheriff’s department. With a minimal fee and state background check, anyone who has not committed prior offenses and has no history of mental illness may obtain the permit. Of course, the state also gives power to the issuing department to deny permits.
Alabama honors 48 states’ permits, while residents can lawfully conceal and carry firearms to 32 other states with an Alabama CCW. Firearm purchases in Alabama are subject to the state’s standard sales tax, but firearm registration isn’t required. The state also protects those lawfully protecting life or property from prosecution with stand-your-ground, castle doctrine, and no duty to retreat.
With Memaw Ivey (an endearing term for the state’s current governor) at the helm, Alabama gun rights are safe for the time. She recently signed a bill to solidify the right to carry, making Alabama one of the best states for gun ownership.
Alaskan residents over the age of 21 can carry handguns without a CCW (Concealed Weapons Permit), and there’s no sales tax in the state, so you won’t have to pay an additional tax on handgun purchases. Gun owners can travel to 26 other states, and visitors from all 50 states (plus Puerto Rico and D.C.) can also carry in Alaska with their state’s CCW.
There are no firearm registration, CCW requirements, and no additional background checks (aside from form 4473 to comply with federal laws) to purchase a firearm in Alaska. However, those who’ve been convicted of a crime carrying a penalty of at least one year in prison, and those with pending domestic violence litigation (including orders of protection), and unable to carry or purchase a firearm in the Last Frontier.
So what happens if you ever need to use your firearm in Alaska? Well, the state has both Stand Your Ground laws, and there’s no duty to leave the area (unless you’re the aggressor, then it’s a good idea to politely excuse yourself from a threatening situation).
With Governor Mike Dunleavy at the helm, it looks like Alaska will remain one of the best states for gun ownership. He supports campus carry and has made many statements that he is a 2nd Amendment proponent.
Maine is an open-carry state where anyone over 21 who is also legally allowed to possess a firearm can carry. In accordance with federal laws, only those over 21 can purchase handguns in Maine, while those over 18 can purchase shotguns or rifles (which is pretty standard on this list).
You won’t have to register your firearms in Maine, but you will have to sign an acknowledgment that you received a Safe Storage pamphlet with every purchase. Maine also offers tax exemptions for safety devices such as safe storage boxes and trigger guards.
You can’t own, possess, or purchase a firearm if you have a pending domestic violence charge, order of protection, or pending felony charges.
Also, Janet Hills, Maine’s Governor, has clearly expressed that she does not support additional gun control legislation like Red Flag Laws or Universal Background checks. Which seems to be working for the state, with a homicide rate of only 1.7 out of 100k (2021).
Wyoming allows its law-abiding citizens to open carry and stand their ground (with no duty to retreat). While you can get enhanced carry permits for traveling (accepted by 35 other states), they aren’t required for purchase, and neither is gun registration or additional background checks.
You’ll still pay the state’s 4% sales tax on any firearm and safety equipment, but the state offers protection for those who use their firearms in acts of self-defense with its Stand Your Ground, Castle Doctrine, and No Duty to Retreat policies.
Wyoming’s Governor, Mark Gordon, is a proponent of the Second Amendment and recently signed the 2A Protection Act to protect citizens’ firearms rights from federal government overreach.
Idahoans can open carry and receive a CCW for travel. Those traveling to Idaho will need a CCW, although the state accepts permits from all 50 states. The state’s standard sales tax applies to all firearms and equipment, but you won’t have to register your firearms or take additional courses before purchasing.
If you ever find yourself in a self-defense scenario, you are protected under the state’s Stand Your Ground doctrine. There’s no duty to retreat and no duty to assess the situation further than reasonably necessary.
Governor Brad Little has a history of going up against the federal government to secure 2nd Amendment rights, as seen with his Credit Card Privacy Bill. So, we feel confident that Idaho will remain on this list for quite some time.
#10 North Dakota
Residents of North Dakota (for more than 30 days) will enjoy Constitutional carry as long as they are at least 18 years of age, have no felony convictions (which you can get your 2A rights back after serving your sentence), and have no pending criminal charges or protective orders against you. Of course, even those who have prior convictions may have an opportunity to get their 2A rights back in North Dakota.
If you do apply for a CCW in North Dakota, local law enforcement does have the authority to deny your permit if they reasonably believe you are a danger to yourself or others. The state honors 38 other state’s CCWs and ND residents can travel to 39 others with a North Dakota CCW. What’s better is that you don’t have to register your firearms and you the state doesn’t have additional background checks outside of federal ones.
North Dakota is a Stand Your Ground state. Not only does one have the right to use deadly force in defense of self and others, but the state also provides immunity from civil liability if said use of force is justifiable.
While you won’t get any tax breaks for firearms or equipment, you won’t see additional penalties for fees, either. North Dakota also has Stand Your Ground laws with no duty to retreat from any place where you are legally allowed to be present. Governor Doug Burgum recently declared North Dakota a Second Amendment Sanctuary State, so we don’t anticipate any changes soon.
#9 South Dakota
South Dakota is a welcoming state for gun owners. It’s a Constitutional carry state with no firearm registration requirements or additional background checks. While similar to all other states, you can’t carry a firearm everywhere, even 18 years olds can legally carry a firearm in South Dakota.
If you’d like to get an enhanced carry permit for travel (reciprocity agreement with 38 other states), you can apply for one at your local sheriff’s office (South Dakota accepts CCWs from all 50 states). You can also apply for a Gold Card to bypass the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System).
South Dakota also has personal defense laws where a person has no duty to retreat and has some protections against prosecution for using deadly force to protect life and property.
At the time of writing (in 2023), you will have to pay sales tax on firearms, ammunition, and equipment. While a bill to exempt firearms and ammunition from taxation failed in 2020, Governor Kristi Noem recently introduced Draft 784. According to South Dakota’s Governor, the 2nd Amendment shouldn’t be taxable. So, we feel pretty confident SD is going to remain one of the best states for gun ownership.
If you’re at least 21 years of age and lawfully allowed to possess a firearm, you can conceal carry without a permit in Texas. However, at the time of writing, Commissioned Officers are unable to enforce carry restrictions on those aged 18-20 due to a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling (although this is subject to change). Residents can travel to 37 other states with an enhanced firearm permit, and Texas honors 44 other states’ CCWs.
While firearms and ammunition aren’t exempt from taxation, safety equipment such as safes, barrel locks, and trigger locks, are exempt.
Texas also has a Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine in place for those who lawfully use force to stop a threat. Citizens of Texas have prosecutorial protections when they are protecting their own lives, someone else’s life, and even property without a duty to retreat (as a reasonable person would also act similarly).
As far as Texas Governor Greg Abbott is concerned, Texas will remain one of the great states for gun ownership in the near future. Governor Abbott is well known for signing sweeping legislation to protect gun ownership in the Lonestar state.
Oklahoma is a permitless carry state where anyone over the age of 21 who is lawfully allowed to possess a firearm can open or concealed carry (with an 18+ exception for those who are active duty military). The state honors permits from all 50 states, and residents can travel to 38 other states with their OK firearms permits.
Not only does Oklahoma have a castle doctrine and stand-your-ground protections with no duty to retreat, but the state also protects those acting lawfully from civil liability. The state does have restrictions on firearms purchases and possession pertaining to the firearm type and caliber. However, the state doesn’t specifically ban “Machine guns,” which are only illegal per federal law.
Similar to other states, Oklahomans will pay the standard sales tax on all firearms, ammunition, and equipment. But there is a bill in the state legislature for exemptions. We don’t see Oklahoma falling off of this list anytime soon, as Governor Kevin Stitt recently declared April 3rd as NRA and Oklahoma Rifle Association Day.
Missouri allows those over the age of 19 to open carry and conceal firearms as a permitless carry state. The state accepts traveler’s permits from all 50 states, while residents’ MO permits (CCP) are valid in 36 states. Those applying for a permit must complete firearm training and obtain the permit from their county sheriff.
Firearm registration is not required, and there are no magazine capacity limits. Purchasers are subject to federal background checks for sales from FFLs, and the state is currently passing legislation to exempt firearms and ammunition from sales tax.
In 2016, Missouri modified its right to self-defense laws to include no duty to retreat. Residents may not be prosecuted if acting in defense of themselves or another and their property per current state laws.
Missouri’s governor, Mike Parsons, is a former law enforcement member and lifetime NRA member and has continually expressed support for upholding the 2nd Amendment. At this time, we’re confident Missouri will remain high on the list of best states for gun owners.
Mississippians will enjoy permitless carry, and those over the age of 18 will also enjoy the state’s open carry legislation. Civilians who would like a firearm permit must take an 8-hour training course, but that also means they can lawfully carry firearms in 35 other states (Mississippi recognizes CCWs from all 50 states). Those who wish to carry in restricted locations can apply for an enhanced carry permit as well.
While it’s illegal in Mississippi to sell firearms to criminals and out-of-state residents (which is true in all 50 states), citizens must only comply with federal background checks, and there aren’t any additional registration requirements. Residents must pay standard state sales taxes on firearms during most of the year. But the state does host tax holidays that include firearms and ammunition exemptions.
Those acting lawfully and in defense of life may be protected from prosecution under the state’s stand-your-ground laws. Mississippi also has no duty to retreat when a reasonable person would believe their life was at stake.
Finally, Mississippi’s Governor, Tate Reeves, tends to be a 2A proponent. He recently signed a bill to block firearm registries and gun tracking.
Montana is another open-carry state with no registration or permit requirements. There’s no sales tax in Montana, so your firearms will be a bit cheaper than in most other states. You can also get a Montana CCW to legally carry in 34 other states (while Montana honors 43 other states’ CCWs).
Montana does have Use of Force policies where a citizen can be protected from prosecution when using deadly force to protect themselves, so long as a reasonable person would believe it necessary. This statute also applies to stopping those committing a forceable felony.
Governor Greg Gianforte is about as pro-2A as one can ask for, as seen in his statements to Merrick Garland over Federal enforcement of certain anti-2A laws.
Arkansans are lawfully permitted to carry firearms under the state’s permitless carry legislation as long as they’re over 18 years of age and legally allowed to possess firearms. While permit holders (CHCL) must pass a series of background checks and safety courses, they can legally carry in 37 other states (the state accepts CCWs from all 50 states). Those who want to carry in lawfully restricted areas can apply for and obtain an enhanced CHCL.
The state also has no registration requirements or Red Flag Laws. While firearms and ammunition aren’t exempt from the state’s sales tax, Arkansas does occasionally offer a tax holiday on those purchases. Arkansas also has stand-your-ground laws where a reasonable person has no requirements to retreat.
Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders currently intends to sign legislation that solidifies Arkansans’ rights to constitutional carry. Based on her previous statements and track record, Arkansas will remain high on this list.
West Virginia allows those over the age of 21 to permitless carry, while those over 18 can apply for a provisional CHL. The state offers CHLs (Carry Handgun Licenses) that are valid in 38 other states, while those traveling from all 50 states are permitted to carry firearms with their state’s licenses. Residents will need to pass a gun safety course to obtain a CHL.
West Virginia doesn’t require additional background checks (aside from federal ones), and there’s no need to register firearms. Citizens may also be protected from criminal and civil liability under the state’s stand-your-ground laws. There’s also no duty to retreat.
As of July 2021, most firearms and ammunition are exempt from the state’s sales tax, but not every firearm gets a pass on taxes. West Virginia Governor Jim Justice recently signed legislation that allows CHL holders to carry firearms on college campuses. Legislative actions that remove firearm restrictions are a good indicator that this state will remain on this list for some time.
New Hampshire is a permitless carry state with incredibly relaxed gun laws (and low crime rates). Any citizen over 18 years old who is lawfully permitted to possess a firearm can open and conceal carry. New Hampshire residents can travel to 29 other states with a pistol and revolver license. The state also honors all 50 states’ permits.
Residents won’t need to attend firearms safety courses, go through a fingerprinting process, or any other stringent tests to obtain a permit. The state also issues permits to out-of-state residents (although they’re only valid in NH). Purchasers are required to pass federal background checks in accordance with federal law.
But what’s better is that New Hampshire currently doesn’t have a state sales tax. So you won’t pay additional taxes on firearms purchases. Those finding themselves in a self-defense situation may be protected from prosecution if they are protecting life or property, with no duty to retreat.
Governor Chris Sununu recently signed into law a bill that restricts the state’s law enforcement from enforcing federal laws that infringe on an individual’s right to gun ownership. Essentially, New Hampshire seems to be the best state for gun owners, with low crime rates and minimal restrictions on firearms and purchases.
Before we dive in, let’s take a moment to analyze what factors make a state The Best for Gun Ownership. If we consider only purchasing requirements, we neglect carrying requirements and use of force thresholds. So, we came up with a list based on the following factors:
- Current Gun Laws
- Current Purchase Laws
- Current CCW Guidelines
- Reciprocity between other states
- Sales Tax
- Current Governor’s voting history
- Stand Your Ground Laws
Now that you know what factors we’re looking at, let’s get to the top 25 states for gun ownership!
Note: It’s important to look at each state’s current laws and Federal laws. For example, most states define Stand Your Ground and Duty to Retreat differently. It’s a good idea to explore the links provided below to better understand your State’s laws.
While the Supreme Court of the United States ruled it Constitutional to implement some gun laws, the high court has also made it clear that placing unnecessary hardships on those who wish to exercise their Second Amendment rights is unconstitutional.
Unfortunately, the court used broad terminology and some states still have a plethora of laws, regulations, and restrictions placed on firearm owners. However, many states are moving toward open carry or permitless carry laws, but only time will tell if the states on this list will remain here, or move to our Worst States for Gun Ownership list.