Top 20 States with the Strictest Gun Laws in the Country

The United States exhibits a significant variation in gun laws across different states, with some enforcing stringent regulations and others adopting more lenient approaches. This article explores the top 20 states known for having the strictest gun laws, highlighting key aspects of their legislation that contribute to their rigorous control over firearms.

1. California

California tops the list with the most comprehensive gun laws. It requires universal background checks, permits for handgun possession, and imposes restrictions on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The state also has a red flag law allowing for temporary seizure of firearms from individuals deemed a threat. See California gun charges & penalties.

2. New Jersey

New Jersey requires permits to purchase and carry firearms, has a ban on assault weapons, and limits magazine capacity. The state also enforces a strong background check system that includes mental health records.

3. Massachusetts

Massachusetts mandates a licensing system for all gun owners, restricts assault weapons, and has a rigorous process for carrying firearms in public. It also employs a unique consumer protection approach to regulate firearms’ safety features.

4. New York

New York’s SAFE Act is one of the toughest gun control laws in the nation. It includes strict background checks, a ban on assault weapons, and limits on magazine capacity. The state also requires ammunition dealers to conduct transactions face-to-face.

5. Connecticut

Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Connecticut implemented laws requiring firearm registration, universal background checks, and a significant ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

6. Maryland

Maryland requires a license to purchase handguns, has an assault weapons ban, and a magazine capacity limit. It also mandates fingerprinting and a safety training course for new gun owners.

7. Hawaii

Hawaii has some of the lowest rates of gun deaths, attributed to its strict laws requiring permits to purchase firearms, complete registration, and a prohibition on assault weapons.

8. Illinois

Illinois requires a Firearm Owners Identification Card to purchase or possess firearms or ammunition and enforces a 72-hour waiting period for all gun purchases. Chicago’s stringent ordinances also contribute to the state’s strict stance.

9. Rhode Island

Rhode Island mandates safety training and background checks for all gun purchases. The state also enforces a ban on high-capacity magazines.

10. Washington

Washington State has passed comprehensive measures including background checks for all gun sales, extreme risk protection orders, and restrictions on assault weapons.

11. Colorado

Colorado requires background checks for private sales and has recently passed laws to remove firearms from individuals deemed a risk under its red flag law.

12. Oregon

Oregon has extended background checks to all gun sales and transfers and has laws preventing domestic abusers and stalkers from obtaining firearms.

13. Delaware

Delaware enforces background checks for private gun sales and has provisions that require reporting lost or stolen firearms promptly.

14. Minnesota

Minnesota requires background checks for private sales at gun shows and imposes restrictions on the transfer of certain types of firearms.

15. Michigan

Michigan mandates background checks and a licensing system for handgun purchasers that includes a safety training course.

16. Nevada

Nevada has laws in place requiring background checks for private gun sales and a recent enactment of red flag laws.

17. Virginia

Virginia has expanded background checks to all firearm sales and has reinstated its one-handgun-a-month law to curb gun trafficking.

18. Vermont

Vermont, traditionally lenient, has recently passed laws requiring universal background checks and limiting high-capacity magazines.

19. Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania requires background checks for all handgun transfers between private parties and is known for strict enforcement of existing federal laws.

20. Florida

Following the Parkland school shooting, Florida enacted several gun control measures, including raising the gun buying age to 21 and implementing a red flag law.


These states demonstrate a commitment to regulating firearm safety and possession through diverse strategies, from stringent background checks to restrictions on weapon types and features. Their legislative frameworks aim to balance the right to bear arms with the necessity to prevent gun violence.


These sources provide detailed insights and analyses into the specific firearms regulations that each state imposes, helping to illustrate the landscape of gun control across the United States.