The debate over gun control in the United States has centered largely on assault-style rifles, like the AR-15. Surging in popularity in recent years, AR-15 style firearms are now the best selling rifle in the U.S. — and they have also been used in 10 of the country’s 17 deadliest mass shootings since 2012. But while AR-15s have dominated the political debate, both in Washington and statehouses across the country, every year in the U.S., handguns take a far greater toll on public health.
According to the FBI, 13,620 homicides were carried out with a firearm in 2020, and at least 59% of them were determined to have been carried out with a handgun. Meanwhile, only 3% of homicides were committed with a rifle. Additionally, a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that risk of suicide-by-firearm is eight times higher for male handgun owners than non-owners, and 35 times higher for female handgun owners. (Here is a look at the states where gun-related crimes are surging.)
In light of the specific risks posed by handguns, several states have implemented policies to better ensure safe and responsible ownership. These include background check expansions, mandatory safety courses, waiting periods for prospective buyers, and licensing and permitting procedures. Most states, however, have done none of the above — and in these places, virtually any adult without a record of criminal violence can legally obtain a handgun in a matter of minutes.
South Dakota is one of these states. Not only are there no universal background check laws for prospective handgun buyers, but there are also no mandatory waiting periods, licensing, or safety training requirements.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 128 firearm-related fatalities in South Dakota in 2021, or 14.3 for every 100,000 people, the 18th lowest gun death rate among the 50 states.
All data on handgun purchase and ownership requirements in this story was compiled by the Giffords Law Center, a gun control advocacy group.
StateLicensing and safety training requirements for handgunsUniversal background checks for handgun purchasesMandatory waiting periods for handgun purchasesAlabamaNoneNoNoneAlaskaNoneNoNoneArizonaNoneNoNoneArkansasNoneNoNoneCaliforniaSafety training to obtain certificateYes10 daysColoradoNoneYes3 days (effective Oct. 1, 2023)ConnecticutPermit and safety training required for purchaseYesNoneDelawareNoneYesNoneFloridaNoneNo3 days minimumGeorgiaNoneNoNoneHawaiiPermit and safety training required for purchaseYes14 daysIdahoNoneNoNoneIllinoisOwnership license requiredYes72 hoursIndianaNoneNoNoneIowaNoneNoNoneKansasNoneNoNoneKentuckyNoneNoNoneLouisianaNoneNoNoneMaineNoneNoNoneMarylandPermit and safety training required for purchaseYes7 daysMassachusettsSafety training, permit required for purchase, license required for ownershipYesNoneMichiganPermit required for purchaseYesNoneMinnesotaPermit required for purchase from private sellersNo30 days if bought from a dealerMississippiNoneNoNoneMissouriNoneNoNoneMontanaNoneNoNoneNebraskaPermit required for purchaseYesNoneNevadaNoneYesNoneNew HampshireNoneNoNoneNew JerseyPermit and safety training required for purchaseYes7 daysNew MexicoNoneYesNoneNew YorkLicense required for purchase and ownershipYesNoneNorth CarolinaNoneNoNoneNorth DakotaNoneNoNoneOhioNoneNoNoneOklahomaNoneNoNoneOregonPermit and safety training required for purchaseYesNonePennsylvaniaNoneYesNoneRhode IslandPermit and safety training required for purchaseYes7 daysSouth CarolinaNoneNoNoneSouth DakotaNoneNoNoneTennesseeNoneNoNoneTexasNoneNoNoneUtahNoneNoNoneVermontNoneYesNoneVirginiaNoneYesNoneWashingtonNoneYesNoneWest VirginiaNoneNoNoneWisconsinNoneNoNoneWyomingNoneNoNone