How does your state rank in gun ownership when compared to the rest? Our results are surprising! We took into account the current gun laws, current legislators’ past voting history, taxes, and more to bring you this comprehensive list for 2023.
- New Hampshire is #1 thanks to its incredibly relaxed gun laws, low crime rates, and lack of state sales tax.
- West Virginia is #2 due to recent legislative actions to remove firearm restrictions and reduce sales tax on firearms and ammunition.
- Arkansas, Montana, and Mississippi are #3, #4, and #5 thanks to their pro-2A governors, stand-your-ground laws, and relaxed carry and conceal requirements.
- Iowa, Utah, and Georgia all dropped in the rankings to #23, #24, and #25 due to enhanced restrictions on lawful gun owners, including taxes and fees.
- Some states ranked better than others due to the current governors’ past and present 2nd Amendment voting history.
Scroll down to read how we ranked America’s best states for gun owners in 2023.
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.
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.
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.
There is a philosophical divide which underpins debate on legal gun ownership in the U.S. To understand that divide, it’s useful to keep one key metric in mind: Civilians possess an estimated 433 million guns in the U.S., according to the NSSF. How many of those guns are legally owned vs. illegally owned isn’t clearly defined yet how lawmakers calibrate their efforts to uphold the rights codified in our Bill of Rights and promote public safety must start with that metric in mind.
Why is this? Because on one side you have lawmakers who celebrate passing more laws restricting legal gun ownership irrespective of their past efforts and often do so citing heinous acts which are already illegal as justification for their additional legislative efforts. Based on their actions, it’s fair to conclude this side doesn’t like civilians legally owning guns - and they want fewer guns in America, period. Thus they make it harder for their constituents to legally exercise their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
On the other side, you have lawmakers who believe in empowering their constituents to protect themselves and their property from illegal acts. Violating a restraining order is a crime in all 50 states. Yet how the victim defends themself against the perpetrator belies a hard truth: Are they allowed to protect themselves from an illegal act with a firearm they legally own? It often depends on where they live in.
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.
Once you understand this philosophical divide, then ranking the U.S. states according to their recent legislative efforts in support of legal gun ownership becomes a clearer task.
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 taxes, and the lawful usability of firearms to bring you the answer as to which states are the best for legal gun ownership by analyzing 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
Your ability to legally use your gun when you need to is as important as your ability to purchase it. If we consider only purchasing requirements, we neglect carrying requirements and use of force thresholds. Thus it’s important to look at each state’s current laws for language regarding Stand Your Ground and Duty to Retreat because they are defined differently.
It’s also important to note that, 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.
We plan to revisit this list in 2024 to once again analyze the factors listed above.
- Current Iowa Weapon Permits
- Iowa Standard Sales Tax
- Iowa Self Defense Laws
- The Iowa Legislature
- Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Signs Law Allowing Permitless Handgun Carry
- Utah Firearm Laws
- Utah Self Defense Laws
- Cox Signals He’s ‘Open’ to Conversations on Gun Control
- Gov. Cox SIgns Bill Protecting Second Amendment RIghts
- Senate Bill 319
- Georgia Self-Defense Laws
- Georgeia’s Constitutional Carry Law Goes Into Effect, No Permit Needed to Carry
- Concealed Carry Laws Manual
- S.B. 265 134th General Assembly
- Ohio Self-Defense Laws
- FACT SHEET: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s Proposals to Address Gun Violence and Increase the Prevention, Identification, and Treatment of Mental Illness
- Governor Ron DeSantis Signs HB 543 – Constitutional Carry
- The 2022 Florida Statutes (including 2022 Special Session A and 2023 Special Session B)