The 14 States With the Strictest Gun Control Laws

Federal gun laws in the United States do not extend far beyond the constitutional right of Americans to keep and bear arms. While the federal government does enforce some restrictions on the types of commercially available firearms, and who can own them, the strictest gun control legislation in the U.S. is enacted at state and local levels.

While most states have not meaningfully expanded upon federal gun policy, other states have adopted a far different approach. A number of states, largely concentrated in the Northeast and along the West Coast, have enacted a broad range of gun control laws designed to reduce the likelihood of gun violence. 

These laws often include licensing rules and waiting periods for prospective buyers, restrictions on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, and more tightly-regulated background checks. 

Using Gifford Law Center’s Annual Gun Law Scorecard, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states with the strictest gun control laws. Each of the 14 states on this list received a grade of B or higher for their gun control legislation from the gun control advocacy group. States are listed in alphabetical order. 

In addition to gun control laws, we also reviewed data on fatalities involving guns in 2021, the latest year of available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While there are some exceptions, many of the states with the tightest gun laws also have lower than average rates of gun violence. Seven of the 10 states with the lowest gun fatality rates rank on this list. Meanwhile, Colorado and Delaware are the only states on this list to rank among the 25 states with the highest gun-related death rates.

While the states on this list have stricter gun regulations, gun rights are not altogether absent. Many of these states have not enacted certain restrictions other states have enacted. For example, New York, a state with some of the tightest gun restrictions overall, does not impose a waiting period, as California, Hawaii, Illinois, and nearby Rhode Island do. Other common gun rights in these states include no licensing requirements and no restrictions on bulk firearm purchases. (Here is a look at the senators doing the most to regulate guns.)

It is important to note that the laws noted in this story are broad guidelines, and that legal nuances can vary at the state and local levels. (Here is a look at every state’s gun law grade.)

Click here to see states with the strictest gun control laws.

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