In the United States, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to keep and bear arms. However, this constitutional right is not unlimited. Federal and state gun laws regulate the sale, possession, and use of firearms. While there are numerous federal gun laws which control the manufacturing, possession, trading, transfer, transport, and destruction of firearms, some individual state governments have their own additional gun control laws. State governments have the power to set laws on gun regulation that are independent of federal statutes. 

State Gun Laws

State gun laws vary considerably across the country and depending on the state, can include broader or more limited gun restrictions. Some states are known to have more restrictive gun control laws than others as the country has faced a gun-violence epidemic in recent years. Based on a study of gun violence and the link between weak gun laws, it was found that the 10 states with the weakest gun laws had three times more gun violence than the 10 states with the strictest gun laws. While many argue that no single law will stop all violent gun-related crimes, past evidence has shown that gun safety laws have worked to reduce gun violence. 

The following five state laws have been enacted by various state governments to regulate specific firearm related matters:

1. Red Flag Laws 

States which enforce Extreme Risk Protection Orders, or also known as red flag laws, allow for law enforcement officials to immediately confiscate and restrict a person’s access to firearms for a temporary period of time. This state gun control law allows for family members or police to petition to order the removal of firearms from individuals who are seemingly dangerous and may potentially present danger to others or themselves. 

2. Shall Issue Laws

States with shall issue laws must issue a permit to carry a gun as long as the applicant meets the basic requirements set by the state government. In the 41 shall-issue states, the law prevents law enforcement officials or gun permit issuing authorities from denying an applicant a permit if all criteria are met. 

3. Stand-Your-Ground Laws

Stand-your-ground laws are considered self-defense laws and allow for armed individuals to use deadly force when they “reasonably believe it to be necessary to defend against deadly force, great bodily harm, kidnapping, rape, or (in some jurisdictions) robbery or some other serious crimes.” Also known as no duty to retreat law, people who lawfully own a gun are able to use force to defend themselves without first attempting to retreat from the threat of danger. 

4. Duty To Inform Laws

12 U.S. states have duty to inform laws which require a gun owner to disclose the presence of a firearm upon making contact with law enforcement. An additional 12 states enforce laws which require a gun owner to notify law enforcement of the presence of a firearm only when asked. 

5. Peaceable Journey Laws

Formally known as the Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA), peaceable journey laws allow a gun owner to travel with a firearm through states where they do not have a license to carry. The gun owner must be able to lawfully carry a firearm in the state of origin and destination, must be in transit through states, and may not stay in a state where possession of a firearm would be illegal. 


Aside from these five gun laws mentioned above, there are still a number of state gun laws that differ significantly across the country. Over the years, gun control laws often change in the state legislature, making it important to be aware of the law in your home state as well as other states, whether or not you are a firearm owner.