Just like there are states with gun owners who cry themselves to sleep at night over all the gun legislation that is keeping them from living the gun life they always dreamed of, there are also states with gun laws that leaves ‘em grinning. Below are the top most gun friendly states and why by ‘Guns and Ammo’. Please take the time to read their editor’s note at the end to better understand their ranking process.
*G&A has conducted a thorough review of each state’s laws and considered initiatives pending in state legislatures. Every effort has been made to create a ranking system that is fair, equitable, accurate and objective. States were ranked numerically in each of five categories: right-to-carry, right to own “black rifles” (i.e., firearms possessing a tactical appearance), presence of the Castle Doctrine, subjects relating to the National Firearms Act (NFA) and a catchall miscellaneous column.
Kentucky has always done well in the gun rights rankings with statutes and a culture consistently friendly toward gun owners. The state gets full points for its Castle Doctrine law, and G&A last ranked it as number 11 nationally in CCW. Kentucky passed a bill this year modernizing some of the training standards for its CCW permits, making the process to obtain a permit potentially even easier. Kentucky has a CLEO “shall sign” law in place and gets full points in the tactical firearm column. With a strong 47 points, its score remains unchanged for 2015.
An effort to establish permit-less carry in Utah failed this year when the senate bill died on the calendar in the house. Still, Utah’s gun laws are very strong by national standards. Utah actually finished second in G&A’s CCW lineup due to the totality of its CCW law. Utah recognizes permits from anywhere, its fees are low at $10 annually, and it issues permits to nonresidents. Utah requires CLEOs to sign for NFA items, and it places no restrictions on tactical-type firearms. Its self-defense statutes are a model for the nation, and the gun culture in the state is widespread.
What can you say about a state that basically has it all? Alaska allows you to carry with or without a permit, openly or concealed. You can own anything that the feds don’t ban, and you have millions of acres of public land on which to shoot. Alaska doesn’t compel CLEOs to sign for NFA items, but G&A knows of none who have refused to do so. Hunting in Alaska is world class, and it’s the one state where carrying a gun is probably more likely to protect you from four-legged predators than from the more common two-legged variety.
If there were a category for most overrated state for gun owners, it would go to Vermont. Don’t get us wrong; G&A loves the Green Mountain State for its gun laws (or lack thereof), but the culture of the state is not as pro-gun as many think. Vermont is increasingly being populated by New Yorkers, and many of those people would love to import the strict gun control laws that they were subject to in the ironically named Empire State. The Michael Bloomberg-backed mayor of Burlington, Miro Weinberger, has sought to impose his own gun control laws, and only the state’s preemption law and a 7 to 1 vote by a house committee held his efforts at bay. A bill to create “universal” background checks as well as an attack on the state’s preemption statute were defeated this session. Efforts to gut the state’s range protection bill as well as a bill to effectively ban lead ammo failed before the legislature in 2015. It’s hard to crown Vermont as the champion of all things good for gun owners with attacks like these happening on a regular basis. Vermont remains the sole state with only a permit-less carry system, with no method of obtaining a permit for the purpose of reciprocity. On the bright side, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin just signed a bill legalizing suppressor possession and ownership in the state. The state also does well in each of the substantive categories listed, but we can’t justify full points in the miscellaneous column.
Still the reigning champion, Arizona combines strong laws with an unmatched shooting culture and strong industry presence. An effort to strengthen the state’s preemption law failed to make it out of the legislature this year, but a clarifying bill did pass, specifying that the transfer of firearms was immune from administrative or municipal regulation. Arizona gets full points in every category with both permit-less and permitted carry, strong self-defense laws, a “shall sign” NFA statue and a thriving competitive shooting scene. Whether you’re into ISPC-style shooting, 3-Gun, long-range rifles, Cowboy matches, shotgunning or just shooting machine guns in the desert, Arizona has everyone covered.
“State-specific gun laws are a complicated, frustrating and fluid subject. We have consulted sources such as the National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation and state and law enforcement agencies to compile these rankings. Some states are very hazy on certain statutes, so our data reflects those confusions with general statements based on our understanding of the law. All information is current as of July 2015.”
You may have noticed that you did not see Florida in either the best or worst categories of gun restrictions. In the scheme of things, according to ‘Guns and Ammo” Florida ranks as the 12th most gun-friendly state in the country. Of course we would love to see Florida ranking higher, but ranking in the top 15% is by no means shabby. Below is what ‘Guns and Ammo’ had to say about Florida gun laws.
What About Florida?
An effort to allow guns to be carried on college campuses in Florida was defeated when the Florida House of Representatives went home four days early this session. For many years, Florida’s gun laws have been the envy of gun owners nationwide. The Sunshine State places no restrictions upon modern firearms, magazines or NFA items, and the state has a healthy competitive shooting network. Finding a place to shoot in the larger metropolitan areas was a challenge for many years, but the private sector has responded to the demand, and ranges can now be found in nearly every corner of the state.
Tell us what you thought of your state’s gun-friendliness ranking and any of the laws you may have read about. What are worst laws? Which laws can you live with? And if you want to look at another state’s ranking that was not listed in this blog:
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