Best States For Gun Owners: What a Difference a Year Makes

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Guns & Ammo rates the states by gun-friendliness each year and the changes from 2014 to 2015 are drastic in some cases and surprising in others. They rate the states in five categories:

  • Right-to-Carry: If permits are issued, we evaluated whether they are issued on a “may issue” or “shall issue” basis and how readily ordinary citizens can obtain them.
  • Modern Sporting Rifles: Types of restrictions states and their respective municipalities place on semiautomatic firearms not regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA).
  • NFA: States restrictions on the ownership of NFA items vs. States that do not restrict ownership and compel Chief Law Enforcement Officers (CLEOs) to sign licensing documents.
  • Castle Doctrine: Laws that regulate the use of force to prevent death, serious bodily injury or forcible crimes and the statutes and case-law in each state related to a citizen’s ability to use a firearm in self-defense.
  • Miscellaneous: State constitutional provisions, state firearm law preemption, purchase/registration requirements, percentage of gun ownership, shooting range protection statues, availability of ranges and access to the shooting sports. States with a healthy firearms industry presence were noted, as were the attitudes of citizens toward the shooting sports and established shooting ranges.

To begin this look at changes over the last year, let’s look at those things that did not change. For example, those who rank at the bottom of the list, Washington D.C. be consistently in last place. With New York (50), New Jersey (49), Massachusetts (48), Hawaii (47) and California (46) being the consistent bottom five actual states in the same order from 2014 to 2015. Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island and Delaware remain at the bottom with little change from 2014 to 2015.

Illinois, who had made it up to 41 in 2014, just out of the bottom ten by finally allowing concealed carry, dropped back to 43 in 2015. Having gone from one of the worst to one of the not so bad, as long as you don’t live in Chicago, Illinois still has a long way to go before being even gun-lukewarm, much less gun-friendly. The ‘middle of the pack’ states remained largely unchanged with a little shuffling up and down a spot or two, of course Washington State took a dive from 37 to 40 with their recent passage of more stringent gun control legislation.

Who is at the top you ask? Well, if you have to ask… Arizona still leads the nation in gun-friendliness. Not only legislatively, but culturally as well. The big mover this year goes to Vermont, moving up from 17 in 2014 to number 2 in 2015, bumping Alaska to the #3 spot. The influx of New Yorkers and constant attacks on gun rights legislatively keep Vermont out of the #1 spot.

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.

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 permitless 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 Top Ten are Arizona (1), Vermont (2), Alaska (3), Utah (4), Kentuck (5), Wyoming (6), Alabama (7), Kansas (8), Missouri (9) and New Hampshire (10). Kansas moved up a notch becoming the 6th state to pass Constitutional (permitless) Carry. New Hampshire passed Constitutional Carry as well, but face a veto by Gov. Maggie Hassan backed by a strong Bloomberg-group gun control lobby effort.

Some surprises include Texas, which many are surprised to hear has fairly tough carry laws. Even though Gov. Abbott signed open carry (with a permit) into law, Texas dropped from 13 to 15 due to other states improving their gun rights laws more significantly. Likewise, despite improvements on the gun rights front, Montana and Florida dropped out of the top ten, being outpaced by other states on the gun rights legislative path. Georgia, #3 in 2014 dropped all the way to #13 in 2015. Though it is still a very gun-friendly state, the march towards more gun rights and less gun restrictions has progressed more quickly in other states over the last year than it has in Georgia.

Overall, even within those states that are consistently at the bottom, gun rights have advanced. Granted many of them were solely due to Supreme Court rulings that deemed their draconian gun control measures unconstitutional. In the rest of the country, with few exceptions, the right to “keep and bear arms” is growing stronger and government regulation of firearms are being routinely deconstructed.

If we didn’t cover your state specifically, you can find the G&A 2014 rankings HERE and the new 2015 rankings HERE. The people’s right to keep and bear arms is a powerful right meant to protect this nation and her people from all enemies foreign and domestic. If I may borrow a line from Spiderman’s Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Exercise your responsibility as vigorously as you exercise your rights!

About the Author

Jon Britton
Joining the U.S. Air Force right out of high school, Jon had the opportunity to experience many different parts of the world and different cultures. His post military career path, both white collar and blue collar, allowed him to work alongside both CEOs and average Joes. "Writing was never a goal or even vaguely contemplated as a career choice, it just happened, an accidental discovery of a talent and a passion." A passion that has taken him in many directions from explorations of the zombie subculture and writing zombie stories to politics and News. He is an avid "people watcher," political junkie and has a ravenous appetite for history and current events alike.