Gun Laws By State – Permits, Registration And Other Facts

Gun ownership requires quite a bit of overall responsibility. This is a welcome opportunity for many to learn the many Federal, and more importantly, local laws concerning firearm use. Purchase and carry laws, as well as registration varies from state to state, and in many cases, may even be reciprocal from one area to another. Some states even have differences in laws from one county to another, so it is very important to pay close attention to your rights to avoid creating a scenario which could result in a question of your ability to own a gun.

This article explores gun laws by state, and explains the differences between concealed carry laws and open carry state options and permits. Explore your protected right to bear arms through this article, and understand the nuances each state has to be the most responsible owner you can be.

Close-up view of gun in male hand on red background

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” 

Although the wording of this has been hotly debated over the years in reference to exactly what this means, the case pertaining to the District of Columbia vs Heller in 2008 concluded that the Second Amendment established an individual right for U.S. citizens to possess firearms, and has served as an example in similar cases since. Now, this does not mean that ALL weapons are considered legal, and there are various state laws that pertain to legal ownership, registration, and permits to carry, as well as federal laws surrounding rights and illegal activities (for example, a convicted felon cannot own or carry a firearm). 

Myths of the 2nd Amendment

Pistol, bullets, USA flag and Text of second amendment for the right to bear arms.

The safety measures put forth in our Constitutional Amendments were placed there to protect citizens from overreaching governments, both on a state and federal level. But the use of the word militia has often been brought up as a dated term referring to military use within our modern era. However, it has been also argued that the term referred to any able-bodied citizen willing to fight for his state or country in the time it was written. Because of this, it has been determined by The U.S. Supreme Court “that the Second Amendment right to bear arms vests in individuals, not merely collective militias, while also ruling that the right is not unlimited.”

Here are some of the myths this statement has created:

The Second Amendment guarantees citizens the right to bear arms

Based on the statement above, this can be interpreted as truth, however, there are many challenges to this ruling still ongoing that reference both state and federal interpretation, and HOW it is applied. But, the bottom line is, as a legal citizen of the United States, you do have the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense purposes.

Pistol on flag

The Second Amendment permits ownership of any type of firearm

There are many types of weapons that are illegal to own, and others that may require special permits and separate background checks. These include ‘sawed-off’ shotguns, fully automatic firearms, any weapon with a destroyed serial number, as well as firearm suppressors. 

You must first obtain a permit before you purchase a firearm

This is not necessarily true and is wholly dependent upon state and local laws. Federally, there is no law that requires a permit to purchase, but in some states, you may be required to either show proof of a carry permit, firearm identification card, or completion of a safety course (more on this below). 

The majority of states do not require anything but proof of age, which is 18 to 21 depending on the type of firearm in question, and the purchase type (licensed dealer vs private sales). Federally, there is no limit on age for long guns. Always check with local laws concerning age. 

Bodyguard with gun opens the door

The right to bear arms cannot be taken away

This is unequivocally untrue as convicted felons in almost all states (including those awaiting trial for felony charges) are not legally allowed to purchase or possess any firearm. Those subject to restraining and protective orders, drug users and addicts that have been through the court systems, dishonorably discharged military veterans, and those of certain ages are also not allowed to own firearms. 

You must obtain a permit to legally carry a firearm

Most states do not require a permit to open carry, but almost all states require a permit for concealed carry purposes. Some states also recognize the validity of carrying a firearm in a vehicle with no permit required, while others have rules in reference to whether it is in sight, concealed, or requires a permit. Always check with local and state laws, and also be sure to pay close attention when traveling from state to state with a weapon (more on that below). 

Firearm Carry Laws

bullets and modern loaded 9mm clip over the bill of rights, focus on the right of the people to keep and bear arms

There is no simple way to explain US firearm carry laws since they vary from state to state and the majority of legislation is enacted at a state-level independent of Federal firearm laws. In fact, some of the state laws are actually less restrictive than Federal laws- and it is up to local law enforcement to enact (or not) Federal laws due to a Supreme Court ruling that states local LOs are not obligated to enforce these laws. Forty states even have a separate protective provision that strengthens the right to own and bear arms on top of the US Constitution 2nd Amendment. 

In order to truly understand gun ownership by state rules and regulations, you truly need to break each of the following topics down to know what your rights are depending on where you live, or where you are traveling. Some of these rules deal with how you carry your gun in a vehicle, such as whether it can be open or must be encased, or whether you must have it registered. 

Open vs Concealed Carry Laws

two hunters and dog on the field

Open carry versus concealed carry laws vary from state to state, and may change based on Constitutional court rulings from one year to the next. As a gun owner, it is your job to stay informed of these laws and how they may affect your weapon use. 

Open carry laws are not in use for all states, and may actually be banned in some instances. Local authorities in these states will generally have ordinances in place concerning how to legally transport firearms, as well as regulate open carry use (for instance during a legal hunting season). This may also apply to the type of firearm you have, such as banning the open carry of handguns, but not the open carry of long guns, or even allow open carry with the correct permit. However, there are many more states that allow open carry than you might expect. 

Cropped image of security guard standing with gun isolated on gray.

Concealed carry laws also vary from state to state and generally fall into 3 categories; these include unrestricted, or constitutional carry; shall issue, which requires a permit and also may require a Federal background check; and may issue, which often requires a justifiable need before the issue of a permit. However, the may issue category is most likely to go the way of the ‘no issue’ category on the grounds that it is restrictive against the Second Amendment.

Many states that require permits also provide reciprocity to states who have similar shall issue permit requirements. This allows a gun owner who has a concealed carry weapon permit to move freely within and from state to state. But it is the permit owner’s responsibility to stay up to date on these laws when traveling. 

Firearm Sales & Purchases

Mature gun shop owner looking at rifle in store

To purchase a gun by a licensed dealer, all buyers must undergo a Federal background check. But not all states require a permit or FOID (Firearm Owner Identification) card, and simply require the return of a clean check. Many of these checks take minutes to complete, especially if you have purchased before, due to the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) FBI database where this information is facilitated. 

Private Sale Regulations

Private sales are not regulated federally and do not require a background check. However, states may enact legislation to include a background check for private sales which may encompass only handguns, long guns, or both. Background checks can generally be completed, for a fee, by licensed dealers, or local police. 

Firearm Registration

Armed policemen on guard in street at night

There is no federal registration process for firearms, and in fact, is considered illegal to do so-, which leaves the control of this up to states. Most states do not require any sort of registration of firearms and gather data via registered gun sales instead to provide information pertaining to the percentage of gun ownership. However, there are a few states that require registration of all firearms, or certain types of firearms, such as handguns or automatic weapons. 

How to Register a Gun

First, it is important to understand that there is no Federal gun registration other than for those firearms subject to the National Firearms Act. These include machine guns, short-barreled rifles, silencers, destructive devices, and anything else designated as “any other weapon”. These are not generally common in many instances and so is not applicable for the majority of gun owners. 

United States Gun Laws - Guns and weapons. A hand of man practicing firing using a Glock gun model at the shooting range. Fire glock hand gun on the background of the american flag.

However, local and state laws do vary on this and so always check with your local State Attorney General’s Office. We have provided information below concerning which states require registration as well for your convenience. 

If you are required to register your firearm, the first thing you do is look up the information specific to your state as mentioned above. You can also inquire at your local police station, or better yet, a local licensed gun dealer. All will provide you the information and means to begin the process. 

Stand Your Ground Law

Gun Ownership Laws in the United States - miniinfographic

The Stand Your Ground Law, otherwise known as Castle Doctrine laws, is an important part of personal self-defense. These laws specifically state that a person is permitted to defend themselves with deadly force and with no duty to retreat. Currently, there are 27 states that have enacted this law, but all have various regulations surrounding them, so it is important to check your state’s allowances. 

Gun Laws By State

Take a look at this list of statistics by state. Keep in mind that since not all states require a firearm to be registered, numbers that reflect per capita ownership are estimated by current sales only. Plus, these numbers are constantly changing. Most states are fairly gun-friendly, and even some of the strictest states allow for easy purchase and open carry situations. 

Many states also have various laws pertaining to handguns and long guns (rifles and shotgun-style weapons), requiring only one or the other to be concealed or open carry. Some permits are only for concealed carry as well, and no permit is required for open carry. Private background checks do not always apply to long guns either.  Always be sure to look at the nuances of each state when you plan to transport a weapon, or look to purchase and carry in some manner.

Alabama

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Shall Issue permit, Open Carry must be in holster

Alaska

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

No

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Arizona

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Arkansas

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Details

California

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Details

May issue permit, Open carry is in specific counties only,

Colorado

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Details

Shall issue permit, 15 round magazine limits

Connecticut

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Details

Shall issue permit, 14 day waiting period for long guns, no restrictions on open Carry long guns, 10 round magazine limit

Delaware

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Details

May issue permit

District of Columbia

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

Details

Shall issue permit, registration must be with local police, 10 round magazine limit

Florida

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

No

No

Yes

Details

Shall issue permit, various rules for open Carry when hunting and fishing

Georgia

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Shall issue, license needed for open carry

Hawaii

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Details

May issue- operates as no issue, 10 round magazine limit for handguns

Idaho

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

No

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Illinois

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

Yes

No

Yes

No

Yes

No

Details

Shall issue permit, FOOIDID card required for purchase

Indiana

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Shall issue permit, permit required for open carry

Iowa

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Details

Shall issue permit, purchase permit for handguns only, permit for open carry required.

Kansas

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

No

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Kentucky

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Shall Issue permit

Louisiana

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Shall Issue permit

Maine

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

No

Yes

No

No

Details

Maryland

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Details

May issue permit, handgun qualification required for handgun purchases, handguns require registration with local police, permit required for open carry, 10 round magazine limit

Massachusetts

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Details

May issue permit, Carry permit or FID required to purchase, permit for open carry required unless hunting with long gun, 10 round magazine limit

Michigan

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Ye

Yes

Details

Shall issue permit, must register handguns with local police, permit for open carry in vehicle

Minnesota

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

Details

Shall issue permit, purchase or carry permit required for handgun sales, permit required for open carry

Mississippi

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

No

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Missouri

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

No

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Montana

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

No

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Shall issue permit for carry in town or city

Nebraska

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Details

Shall issue permit, Carry permit or handgun certificate required for handgun purchase,

Nevada

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Details

Shall issue permit

New Hampshire

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

No

Yes

No

Yes

Details

New Jersey

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Details

May issue policy, purchaser ID card required, carry permit required for handguns, 6 to 10 round magazine limit depending on firearm

New Mexico

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

No

No

No

Details

Shall issue permit

New York

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

Details

May issue permit, Certain continents allow permits to purchase handguns via country and state supreme Court judges, 10 round magazine limit

North Carolina

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Details

Shall issue permit, Carry or pistol purchase permit required

North Dakota

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Details

Shall issue permit, Carry or pistol purchase permit required

Ohio

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

Details

Shall issue permit

Oklahoma

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Shall issue permit, Open carry handguns require permit

Oregon

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Details

Shall issue permit

Pennsylvania

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Details

Shall issue permit

Rhode Island

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Details

Shall and May issue, firearm safety exam and Blue Card required for purchase of handguns

South Carolina

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Shall issue permit

South Dakota

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Shall issue permit

Tennessee

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Shall issue permit, permit required for open carry, long guns must be unloaded when open carried

Texas

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Shall issue permit

Utah

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Shall issue permit, loaded handgun allowed dinner vehicle without permit, Open carry requires permit ONLY if a round is chambered.

Vermont

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Details

10 to 15 round magazine limits depending on firearm type

Virginia

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

Details

Shall issue permit

Washington

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Details

Shall issue permit, all handgun sales reported to police, loaded handgun in vehicle requires permit, long guns must be unloaded in vehicle if open carried

West Virginia

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

No

Yes

No

Yes

Details

Wisconsin

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

Details

Shall issue permit

Wyoming

Gun Laws

Purchase Permit/License

Registration of Firearm

Carry Permit Required

Open Carry

Background checks on Private Sales

Stand Your Ground Laws

Y/N

No

No

No

Yes

No

No

Details

Conclusion

The differences between state gun laws can be quite vast in some situations, so it is important, and your responsibility, to be aware of your local laws in reference to permits and registrations. Hopefully, this article has provided you much of the information you need when taking ownership of a firearm within the state you reside in. If in doubt, the quickest way to get a specific answer is with a local, licensed gun dealer, or police. 

Let us know below if you have any questions, and, as always, please share!

Gun Ownership Laws in the United States-Infographic

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