Gun Laws Across the Nation

There are few subjects as polarizing as gun control laws. It’s a complicated subject and people on all sides of each aspect are impassioned. When you look into it though, there’s a lot of misinformation and disinformation out there. This week I just want to write about a few definitions and state-by-state facts, as best I could unearth them.  This is a fact set that is constantly changing in different places. The information I’m sharing is generally from 2021.

State gun laws are set by state-level governments.  Because of that, gun laws vary from one state to another. There are federal firearm laws that apply to all 50 states, but beyond laws set by the federal government, state gun laws can’t be changed by the federal government. It’s a longstanding issue of state’s rights. In some parts of the United States, gun laws are less restrictive than those set by the federal government. In other areas, the reverse is true.

Federal Firearms Laws

A person can either carry a firearm as a ‘concealed carry weapon’ or as an ‘open carry weapon.’  Concealed carry means exactly that – firearms are tucked away. They aren’t visible to other people. Open carry firearms are out in the open. Each state individually decides what the rule is within its own borders. The states also decide the rules about permits for owning or carrying weapons.

Permit application procedures and requirements also vary widely from state to state. The simplicity or complexity of the process tends to mirror the degree to which guns are regulated within the state.

State-Level Gun Laws

I want to repeat that I researched this extensively for the past couple of weeks and the information I’m sharing here is as accurate as I could make it.

7 states ban any open carry activity.

8 states require owners of firearms to register their weapons with the state.

22 states have ‘deadly force laws’.

27 states have ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws.

Broadly speaking, these laws allow anyone to shoot someone if –

  • That person’s behavior is unlawful or dangerous
  • Someone is breaking into your home, office, car, boat, or other pieces of property,
  • The shooter has done nothing to cause the behavior.
  • The intruder isn’t a police officer on duty,
  • The shooter must genuinely fear the intruder will kill or inflict serious harm should they enter the premises.

Individual States and Gun Laws

In some states, concealed carry is in the form of Constitutional Carry. Anyone who can legally carry a weapon may do so without a permit. The Constitutional Carry states are listed below.

Alaska Arizona Kansas
Maine Mississippi Missouri
New Hampshire Vermont West Virginia


Shall-Issue States

Some states have ‘shall-issue’ laws. This means that as long as an applicant passes the basic requirements set out by state law, the issuing authority (county sheriff, police department, state police, etc.) is compelled to issue a permit. There are 34 shall-issue states which are in green in the map below. 7 of them are shall-issue to residents only, and as follows:

Alabama Colorado Louisiana
Michigan Montana Wyoming


27 states shall issue to residents and non-residents and are listed below.

Arkansas District of Columbia Florida
Idaho Illinois Indiana
Iowa Kentucky Minnesota
Nebraska Nevada New Mexico
North Carolina North Dakota Ohio
Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania
Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota
Tennessee Texas Utah
Virginia Washington Wisconsin

May Issue States

Other states have ‘may-issue’ laws. This is when a permit is required, and local authorities help determine whether permits are given. These states are:

California Connecticut Delaware
Hawaii Maryland Massachusetts
New Jersey New York Rhode Island


According to its state law, Rhode Island is a shall-issue state. Its attorney general may also issue permits. Under state law, local law enforcement shall issue permits to eligible applicants as long as the individual appears eligible and has a “proper reason” for carrying a handgun, such as the individual “has a good reason to fear an injury to his or her person or property.”

In some states, there are no-issue laws. This means that most private citizens are not allowed to carry concealed handguns. In California, this is the case in 12 counties. In other areas, while these laws are not technically on the books, they are in practice. The states that have these laws in practice are:

Hawaii Maryland Massachusetts
New Jersey New York  


Concealed Carry Reciprocity

Concealed carry reciprocity means that one’s concealed carry permit or license is valid beyond the issuing state’s borders. Reciprocity varies from state to state, and individuals carrying must follow the state laws in which they are carrying. For example, Alabama honors all out-of-state concealed carry permits. Meaning that if an individual has a concealed carry permit from Arkansas, they can legally carry a firearm in Alabama.

Several states do not honor any out-of-state concealed carry permits or non-resident permits. For example, Colorado does not honor any out-of-state non-resident permits. This means that for Colorado to honor an out-of-state permit, it must be a resident permit from a state that honors Colorado’s permits, and the person must be at least 21. A 21-year-old with a resident permit from Florida would be honored in Colorado.

The states that do not honor any other state’s concealed carry permits are:

California Connecticut Hawaii
Illinois Maryland Massachusetts
Montana Delaware District of Columbia
Maine New Hampshire Rhode Island
New Jersey New York Oregon
Rhode Island    


Why does all this matter??

A mass shooting is defined as one in which at least three people are shot. Just in the first six months of this year there have been 248 mass shootings. It’s a number that makes you think it couldn’t possibly be accurate … but as of the moment that I’m writing this, it’s very accurate. Hopefully by tomorrow morning it hasn’t gone up again.

Firearms, money, and politics are intertwined, which means a lot goes on behind the scenes that most of us never know about. Sometimes we have to start by looking at things at the most basic levels to get a better grasp of the landscape of the arguments. I try to be a reasonably well-informed person, and still, some of the facts listed in this blog post were startling to me.

Do you have any thoughts about this, or about the situation where you live? As always, please feel free to e-mail me at about this or any other subject.

2 thoughts on “Gun Laws Across the Nation”

  1. These gun laws are crazy. I don’t know how someone can have the mental capacity to buy a gun but not a cigarette or drink until the age of 21. It’s beyond me why anyone needs an assault rifle.

  2. These gun laws are are ridiculous. I think everyone should have gone evaluated before carrying a weapon

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