The right to keep and bear arms in the United States originally resulted from the conviction that individuals have the right to self defense. Today, this right is enshrined by the U.S. constitution. However, the alarming number of high-profile mass shootings in the last decade, from Columbine to Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook to Orlando, as well as the over 100,000 Americans who are injured by guns each year, have led many to question this relatively unrestricted Constitutional right.
The United States has some of the least restrictive gun laws compared to Western countries. For instance, every state allows at least some residents to carry concealed weapons, and most states do not require background checks for private gun sales. However, there are only 12 states where just about anyone can have a gun. In these states anyone can carry a concealed weapon without a permit or background check.
> Concealed carry permit required: No
> Gun ownership rate: 32.3% (25th highest)
> Firearm-related death rate: 13.8 per 100,000 (18th highest)
Arizona has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the country. Consumers in the state can buy as many firearms as they want in a single exchange, including .50 caliber weapons and assault rifles, with no waiting period. And if they buy from a private seller, also without a background check.
In 2011, Jared Loughner killed six and injured 13 more, including his primary target Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in a mass shooting outside a Tucson grocery store. Loughner legally purchased the murder weapon in Arizona after he had been rejected by the Army for failing a drug test and was suspended from college for erratic behavior.
Approximately one in three adults nationwide own a gun. In eight of the 12 states on this list, adult gun ownership is higher than the national rate. In four of these — Alaska, Idaho, West Virginia, and Wyoming — more than half the adults own a firearm and are among the top five in the country by this measure.
In states with relaxed gun laws, gun ownership tends to be higher, which might lead to higher death rates. “We can only speculate, but it does seem that the U.S. has more privately held guns than any other country in the world, yet we have much higher rates of gun deaths and shootings than other developed nations,” said Allison Anderman, managing attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, in an interview.
In nine of the 12 states that allow concealed carry without a permit firearm-related death rates exceed the national average of 11.1 deaths for every 100,000 Americans, and in eight of these nine states gun ownership rates are above average.