Annual Gun Law Scorecard

Every year, our research shows that gun laws are saving lives—but only in states with the courage to enact them.

F WY B WA C- WI F WV F VT D VA F UT F TX D- TN F SD F SC B+ RI C OR D OH F OK C PA A- NY D NV F NM A- NJ F ME F NH D NE F ND D- NC F MS F MO C+ MN C MI A- MD A- MA F LA F KY F KS D- IN B+ IL F ID C- IA A- HI F GA F FL B DE A- CT C CO A CA F AZ F AK F MT F AR F AL 10 STATES WITHTHE WORST GUNDEATH RATES
Alabama
F

Gun Law Strength: 36 of 50 states

CA1
NJ2
CT3
MA4
NY5
MD6
HI7
IL8
RI9
WA10
DE11
MN12
PA13
OR14
CO15
MI16
WI17
IA18
NE19
VA20
OH21
NV22
IN23
TN24
NC25
FL26
UT27
OK27
SC29
NM29
NH31
TX32
GA32
WV32
ME35
AL36
ND37
MT37
AR39
SD40
VT41
KY42
LA43
AK44
WY45
ID46
AZ47
KS48
MO48
MS50
Strongest Laws
Weakest Laws

Gun Death Rate: 2 of 50 states

MA50
RI49
NY48
HI47
CT46
NJ45
MN44
CA43
ME42
WA41
NE40
IA39
NH38
DE37
VT36
WI35
IL34
OR33
MD32
PA31
ND30
VA29
TX28
MI27
FL26
OH25
UT24
KS23
SD22
NC21
CO20
ID19
IN18
GA17
AZ16
NV15
TN14
KY13
WV12
WY11
SC10
AR9
NM8
MO7
MT6
OK5
MS4
LA3
AL2
AK1
Fewest Deaths per capita
Most Deaths per capita
No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Alabama did not pass any significant gun laws in 2017. Gun safety advocates defeated bills that would allow concealed carry without a permit and guns on college and university campuses. One of the many ways Alabama could raise its failing grade is by requiring background checks on all gun purchasers. Learn more about Alabama’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Alaska did not pass any significant gun laws in 2017. Despite its remote location, Alaska exports crime guns to other states at nearly twice the national average and has the highest gun death rate in the nation. Lawmakers could take steps to reduce these numbers and save lives by enacting gun safety laws including universal background checks and limits on bulk gun purchases. Learn more about Alaska’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Arizona enacted no notable gun laws in 2017, and in 2016 the state exported crime guns at a rate higher than 44 other states. Arizona could raise its F grade in a number of ways, including by requiring people to obtain a background check and license in order to carry a hidden, loaded gun in public.Learn more about Arizona’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

While gun safety advocates defeated a dangerous permitless carry bill in 2017, Arkansas still managed to weaken its already poor gun laws by forcing public universities and other buildings to allow concealed, loaded guns on their premises. Ways to raise Arkansas’s grade include passing universal background checks, extreme risk protection order legislation, and laws to keep domestic abusers from accessing guns. Learn more about Arkansas’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

California boasts the strongest gun laws in the nation and a correspondingly low gun death rate. The state further strengthened its gun laws in 2017 by prohibiting hate crime offenders from accessing guns and funding urban gun violence reduction programs. California should increase its investment in these lifesaving, community-based programs and pass laws that regulate the sale of dangerous home firearm assembly kits. Learn more about California’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Colorado did not pass any significant gun laws in 2017, maintaining its C grade after advocates helped defeat irresponsible bills that would have allowed guns in K–12 schools and concealed carry without a permit. Ways for Colorado to raise its grade include requiring gun dealers to obtain a state license and mandating reporting of lost or stolen firearms. Learn more about Colorado’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

In 2017, Connecticut protected funding for Project Longevity, a lifesaving community-based violence intervention program. The state, which overhauled its gun laws in 2013 following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, consistently has one of the lowest gun death rates in the nation. It could further raise its grade by requiring safe storage of guns and limiting bulk firearm purchases. Learn more about Connecticut’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Delaware did not pass any significant gun laws in 2017, maintaining its B grade, with both positive and negative firearm bills still pending. Delaware lawmakers could raise its grade and save lives from gun violence by passing the extreme risk protection order bill currently pending in the state’s general assembly. Learn more about Delaware’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

In 2017, Florida legislators amended the state’s already dangerous Stand Your Ground law, making the policy even more extreme. The amendment was struck down as unconstitutional but is currently on appeal. To raise its F grade and save lives, Florida could enact universal background checks, require safe storage of firearms, and repeal Stand Your Ground. Learn more about Florida’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

In 2017, Georgia enacted a dangerous law allowing individuals with concealed carry permits to bring guns onto college and university campuses. Thanks to efforts by gun safety advocates, a bill to allow concealed carry without a license or background check failed to advance in the legislature. One of the many ways Georgia could raise its F grade is by passing universal background checks. Learn more about Georgia’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

In 2017, Hawaii improved efforts to keep guns out of dangerous hands by enacting a law that makes it easier for law enforcement to investigate individuals who lie on background check forms when trying to buy a gun. The state has some of the strongest gun laws in the nation and enjoys one of the lowest gun death rates as a result. Learn more about Hawaii’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Already an F state, Idaho further weakened its gun laws after the state enacted a law to allow concealed carry without a permit. Idaho exports twice as many crime guns as it imports, driving violence in other states. To cut that number and raise its grade, Idaho could pass universal background checks, reinstate concealed carry permits, and allow local governments to pass gun laws.Learn more about Idaho’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Illinois did not enact any significant gun safety laws in 2017, maintaining its B+ grade with both positive and negative firearm bills still pending. Gun violence in Illinois is driven by trafficking from neighboring states with weak gun laws, such as Indiana. Passing a gun dealer licensing law or an extreme risk protection order law would help Illinois raise its grade and save lives. Learn more about Illinois’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

In 2017, Indiana weakened its restrictions on armor-piercing bullets. However, bills to compel colleges to allow concealed carry on campus and to remove Indiana’s CCW permitting requirement were defeated. To raise Indiana’s grade, legislators could pass universal background checks, a strong extreme risk protection order law, and laws that keep convicted domestic abusers from accessing guns. Learn more about Indiana’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Iowa’s grade dropped from a C to a C- after lawmakers enacted a deadly Stand Your Ground law, weakened handgun permit requirements, and allowed concealed carry in the state capitol. Iowa could raise its grade and save lives by immediately repealing the dangerous gun laws passed in 2017, requiring background checks for all gun purchases, or passing an extreme risk protection order law.Learn more about Iowa’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

In 2017, a law went into effect that made Kansas the first state to force public universities to allow people who have never passed a background check or obtained any permit to carry concealed, loaded weapons in campus buildings. A few of the many ways Kansas could raise its grade include passing universal background checks, repealing its dangerous permitless carry and campus carry laws, and acting to disarm domestic abusers. Learn more about Kansas’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Kentucky failed to enact significant gun safety laws in 2017, scoring an F yet again, and its weak laws have made it a leading exporter of crime guns to states with stronger laws. Two ways for Kentucky to raise its grade and save lives include requiring background checks on private gun sales and allowing local governments to regulate firearms. Learn more about Kentucky’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Louisiana’s weak laws earned the state another F, although in 2017 the state extended its gun possession restrictions for domestic abusers to cover same-sex and dating partners. Requiring private sale background checks and allowing local governments to regulate firearms are just two of the many ways Louisiana could raise its grade and save lives. Learn more about Louisiana’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Maine did not pass any significant gun safety laws in 2017, earning another F this year. Maine could raise its grade by passing universal background checks, requiring a permit to carry concealed weapons, or allowing local governments to regulate firearms. Learn more about Maine’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Maryland continued to improve its already strong gun laws after enacting a bill addressing guns and domestic violence. Gun violence in the state is driven by trafficking from nearby states with weaker laws, notably Virginia and Georgia, which earned a D and an F respectively. Maryland legislators could further strengthen the state’s gun laws by passing an extreme risk protection order law. Learn more about Maryland’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

In 2017, Massachusetts became the second state to ban the sale and possession of bump stocks. The state has the lowest gun death rate in the country and, correspondingly, some of the strongest gun laws. State legislators should continue to strengthen its laws by enacting an extreme risk protection order law and providing more stable funding for urban violence reduction programs. Learn more about Massachusetts’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Michigan did not enact any significant gun laws in 2017, although a dangerous bill is pending to allow concealed carry in schools and hospitals. To raise its grade and save lives from gun violence, Michigan should reject this deadly bill, require private sale background checks, and allow local governments to regulate firearms. Learn more about Michigan’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Minnesota did not pass any significant gun laws in 2017, maintaining a C+ grade with positive and negative firearm bills still pending. Ways for Minnesota to raise its grade and save lives include requiring background checks on private sales, enacting an extreme risk protection order law, and requiring reporting of lost and stolen guns. Learn more about Minnesota’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Mississippi did not enact any significant gun safety measures in 2017. Not only did the state earn an F, it ranks 50th among the states, with the weakest gun laws in the nation. Not coincidentally, Mississippi is also the number one exporter of crime guns to other states and has the country’s fourth-highest gun death rate. The quickest way for Mississippi to improve these numbers would be to pass universal background checks. Learn more about Mississippi’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Missouri’s weak gun laws earned the state another F grade. The state has seen a nearly 25% increase in firearm deaths and injuries since it repealed a permit-to-purchase law in 2007. To reduce gun deaths and raise its grade, Missouri should enact universal background checks, extreme risk protection orders, and other lifesaving gun laws. Learn more about Missouri’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Montana’s governor vetoed two dangerous bills in 2017 that would have allowed guns into more public spaces. Legislators also defeated efforts to allow individuals to carry loaded guns in public without a background check or license. In 2016, Montana exported crime guns at the eighth-highest rate nationally. To improve the state’s F grade, legislators could pass universal background checks and an extreme risk protection order law. Learn more about Montana’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Nebraska expanded its list of people prohibited from buying guns to include those subject to a harassment protection order in 2017, but received a D again due to its lack of comprehensive gun safety laws. Ways to raise Nebraska’s grade include requiring background checks on all gun sales, requiring gun dealers to obtain a state license, and passing an extreme risk protection order law.Learn more about Nebraska’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Nevada’s grade dropped from a C- to a D in 2017 due to the state’s failure to enforce its background check law, in spite of the fact that the measure was passed by voters in a 2016 ballot initiative. However, Nevada did strengthen its gun laws by prohibiting people convicted of domestic violence offenses and stalking from buying a gun. Learn more about Nevada’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

New Hampshire’s grade fell from a D to an F in 2017 after enacting a reckless law that allows people to carry hidden, loaded guns in public without any sort of permit or license. New Hampshire also doesn’t require background checks at gun shows, on the internet, or in private sales, making it all the easier for dangerous individuals buy a gun and bring it to public places. Learn more about New Hampshire’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

In 2017, New Jersey strengthened efforts to combat domestic violence by enacting a law that creates a process for convicted domestic abusers to relinquish their guns to law enforcement. New Jersey has some of the strongest gun laws in the country, a correspondingly low gun death rate, and in 2016 exported crime guns at the lowest rate of all 50 states. Learn more about New Jersey’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

New Mexico failed to enact significant gun laws in 2017, and its governor vetoed bipartisan legislation to require domestic abusers to relinquish their firearms upon conviction. Ways for the state to raise its F grade and save lives include comprehensively restricting access to guns by domestic violence offenders and requiring background checks on all gun sales. Learn more about New Mexico’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

New York did not enact any significant gun laws in 2017, but has strong gun laws and a correspondingly low gun death rate. New York currently requires individuals living with people prohibited from possessing firearms to safely store their guns, but the state could further strengthen its safe storage law by making it a crime to leave a firearm accessible to a minor. Learn more about New York’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

North Carolina was the site of multiple crucial defensive victories by gun safety advocates in 2017, as dangerous campus carry and permitless carry bills failed to advance, as did efforts to repeal the state&rsqup;s background check requirement for handgun purchases. To raise the state’s grade and save lives, legislators could expand the state’s background check requirement to cover all gun sales, not just handguns, and enact an extreme risk protection order law. Learn more about North Carolina’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

In 2017, North Dakota repealed its requirement that people obtain a license to carry concealed firearms in public, earning the state another F. Some of the many ways North Dakota could raise its grade and save lives include passing universal background checks, preventing substance abusers from purchasing or possessing guns, and regulating ammunition sales. Learn more about North Dakota’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Ohio did not enact any significant gun laws in 2017. The state does not require firearms dealers to obtain a state license, limit the number of firearms that may be purchased at one time, impose a waiting period on firearm purchases, or regulate ammunition sales. Enacting any of these policies would raise Ohio’s grade and save lives. Learn more about Ohio’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Oklahoma did not enact any significant gun laws in 2017. Bills allowing individuals to carry guns on college and university campuses and in public without a permit both failed thanks to concerted efforts by local gun safety advocates. Ways Oklahoma could improve its grade include passing universal background checks and requiring gun dealers to obtain a state license. Learn more about Oklahoma’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

In 2017, Oregon enacted an extreme risk protection order law that allows family members and law enforcement to temporarily prevent a dangerous person from accessing guns. While Oregon passed universal background checks in 2015, it could further raise its grade and save lives by limiting bulk purchases of firearms, regulating ammunition purchases, and requiring safe storage of firearms in the home. Learn more about Oregon’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Pennsylvania did not enact significant gun laws in 2017, maintaining its C grade with positive and negative firearm bills still pending. Pennsylvania could raise its grade and save lives by requiring background checks on private sales of long guns, not just handguns, allowing local governments to regulate firearms, and requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms. Learn more about Pennsylvania’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

In 2017, Rhode Island strengthened its laws to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. To raise its grade from a B+, Rhode Island lawmakers should continue to pass new gun safety measures, including restrictions on the sale of military-style firearms, extreme risk protection orders, and prohibitions on hate crime offenders accessing guns. Learn more about Rhode Island’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

South Carolina did not enact any significant gun laws in 2017. Thanks to efforts by gun safety advocates, bills to allow individuals to carry guns in public without a permit or background check, as well as on college campuses, failed to advance in the legislature. In 2016, South Carolina exported crime guns at a rate higher than 44 other states. The quickest way for South Carolina to raise its grade and save lives would be to pass universal background checks. Learn more about South Carolina’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

South Dakota has very few gun safety laws and did not make significant improvements in 2017. A few of the many ways South Dakota could raise its grade and save lives include enacting universal background checks, requiring the reporting of mental health records to the federal background checks database, regulating ammunition sales, and allowing local governments to pass gun laws.Learn more about South Dakota’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Tennessee created a procedure for domestic violence offenders to relinquish their firearms, raising the state’s grade from an F to a D-. Ways for the state to make further improvements and continue to raise its grade include requiring background checks on private sales, requiring gun dealers to obtain a state license, and imposing a waiting period on firearm purchases. Learn more about Tennessee’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

In 2017, Texas further weakened its gun laws by repealing restrictions on the possession of silencers and removing school districts’ authority to keep weapons out of vehicles in school parking lots, earning the state another F. However, dangerous permitless carry and campus carry bills were defeated thanks to efforts by gun safety advocates. Ways for Texas to raise its grade include adopting universal background checks and repealing its dangerous campus carry law. Learn more about Texas’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

In 2017, Utah improved its gun laws by prohibiting firearm possession by domestic violence misdemeanants and by subjects of restraining orders. The state still earned an F though, due to its lack of fundamental gun safety laws like private sale background checks. Utah could do even more to prevent domestic gun violence, and raise its grade, by creating a process for abusers to relinquish their guns to law enforcement when they become prohibited. Learn more about Utah’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Vermont did not adopt any significant gun legislation in 2017. State lawmakers can raise Vermont’s F grade by enacting universal background checks, passing an extreme risk protection order law, requiring a permit to carry guns in public, regulating firearm dealers, or restricting firearm access by domestic abusers. Learn more about Vermont’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Virginia did not enact any significant gun laws in 2017, maintaining its D grade. Irresponsible campus carry and permitless carry bills failed thanks to dedicated efforts from gun safety advocates. Ways for Virginia to raise its grade and save lives include enacting universal background checks, passing laws aimed at preventing gun trafficking, and funding urban gun violence reduction programs. Learn more about Virginia’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

In 2017, Washington passed a law to allow temporary transfers of guns without a background check to prevent suicide and made it easier for law enforcement to investigate those who lie on background check forms. To further raise its grade, Washington could regulate ammunition sales, limit bulk firearm purchases, and fund urban gun violence reduction programs. Learn more about Washington’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

In 2017, West Virginia passed a law allowing concealed carry permit holders to keep guns in cars parked on K–12 school property. Despite this, gun safety advocates helped defeat a bill that would have allowed guns on college and university campuses. The state could raise its grade by requiring private-sale background checks, gun purchase waiting periods, or safe storage. Learn more about West Virginia’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Wisconsin did not enact any significant gun laws in 2017, earning another C-. Two bills to eliminate the state’s concealed carry license requirement are still pending in the legislature. Some of the ways Wisconsin could raise its grade include passing universal background checks, strengthening the permitting system for carrying concealed weapons in public, and funding urban violence reduction programs. Learn more about Wisconsin’s gun laws.

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No Law
Partial Law
Strong Law

Wyoming enacted a law in 2017 that allows K–12 school employees with concealed carry permits to carry hidden, loaded firearms in buildings and on school grounds. Wyoming has the second-highest gun suicide rate in the country and the fourth-highest crime gun export rate. Some of the ways Wyoming could raise its grade and save lives include imposing waiting periods on gun purchases, requiring safe storage of firearms, and enacting an extreme risk protection order law. Learn more about Wyoming’s gun laws.

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Does Your State Make The Grade?

Gun violence is a moral crisis in America. It’s also a public health crisis. Over a million people have been shot in the past decade, and 2017 saw not one but two of the deadliest mass shootings in our country’s history. Unlike other epidemics, gun violence persists not because we lack solutions, but because too many of our leaders lack the courage to stand up to the corporate gun lobby.

The situation is dire, but far from hopeless. As we’ve done for many years now, the attorneys at Giffords Law Center graded and ranked all 50 states on the relative strength or weakness of their gun laws in 2017. We found, like we do every year, a simple but undeniable correlation—states with strong gun safety laws have fewer gun deaths per capita than states with weak laws. In short, gun laws work. To truly address this crisis, more states must follow the example of their neighbors with high grades and pass the comprehensive gun safety laws proven to save lives.

Interested in learning more about this year’s Annual Gun Law Scorecard? Contact one of our experts.

Fewer People Die From Gun Violence In States With Strong Gun Laws

50-State Rankings

Explore the correlation between gun laws and gun deaths, state by state.
Gun Law Strength (Ranked)State2017
Grade
Gun Death Rate (Ranked) Gun Death Rate
(per 100K)
36AlabamaF221.4
44AlaskaF123.0
47ArizonaF1615.2
39ArkansasF917.7
1CaliforniaA437.9
15ColoradoC2014.3
3ConnecticutA-464.6
11DelawareB3710.9
26FloridaF2612.6
32GeorgiaF1714.9
7HawaiiA-474.5
46IdahoF1914.6
8IllinoisB+3411.6
23IndianaD-1814.9
18IowaC-399.2
48KansasF2313.3
42KentuckyF1317.5
43LouisianaF321.2
35MaineF428.2
6MarylandA-3211.8
4MassachusettsA-503.4
16MichiganC2712.2
12MinnesotaC+447.6
50MississippiF419.8
48MissouriF718.8
37MontanaF619.0
19NebraskaD409.1
22NevadaD1516.7
31New HampshireF389.3
2New JerseyA-455.5
29New MexicoF818.2
5New YorkA-484.4
25North CarolinaD-2113.6
37North DakotaF3011.9
21OhioD2512.9
27OklahomaF519.6
14OregonC3311.8
13PennsylvaniaC3111.9
9Rhode IslandB+494.0
29South CarolinaF1017.7
40South DakotaF2213.5
24TennesseeD-1417.0
32TexasF2812.1
27UtahF2412.9
41VermontF3611.0
20VirginiaD2912.0
10WashingtonB419.0
32West VirginiaF1217.5
17WisconsinC-3511.4
45WyomingF1117.5

Weak Gun Laws, More Gun Deaths

Annual state gun death rates per 100,000 people, in order of gun law strength and grouped by grade.
National Average Gun Death Rate: 11.7
A
CA 7.9
NJ 5.5
CT 4.6
MA 3.4
NY 4.4
MD 11.8
HI 4.5
B
IL 11.6
RI 4.0
WA 9.0
DE 10.9
C
MN 7.6
ND 11.9
OR 11.8
CO 14.3
MI 12.2
WI 11.4
IA 9.2
D
NE 9.1
VA 12.0
OH 12.9
NV 16.7
GA 14.9
TN 17.0
NC 13.6
F
FL 12.6
OK 19.6
UT 12.9
NM 18.2
AR 17.7
NH 9.3
KY 17.5
IN 14.9
TX 12.1
ME 8.2
AL 21.4
MT 19.0
PA 11.9
SC 17.7
SD 13.5
VT 11.0
WV 17.5
LA 21.2
AK 23.0
WY 17.5
ID 14.6
AZ 15.2
MO 18.8
KS 13.3
MS 19.8

Consistent Year over Year

Combined annual gun death rates per 100,000 people vs. year, sorted by gun law grade.
16
14
12
10
8
6
4
2
0
F14.2
D10.1
C10.0
B7.1
A5.8
2014
F14.1
D10.5
C9.9
B7.1
A5.7
2015
F15.6
D10.9
C10.9
B9.0
A5.8
2016
F15.9
F
D13.8
D
C11.2
C
B8.9
B
A6.0
A
2017

Success in the States

With 25 states earning an F on this year’s Scorecard, there’s a lot of work to be done. The good news is that other states have already paved the way, testing the policies most effective at preventing gun violence and reaping lifesaving rewards. In fact, of the 10 states with the strongest gun laws, eight are also among the 10 states with the fewest gun deaths per capita. Many have only recently improved their laws—since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, over 210 new gun safety laws have been enacted in 45 states.

This year, 12 states increased their gun law scores over previous years. North Dakota, New Jersey, Nevada, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Utah passed new domestic violence laws, while Oregon enacted an Extreme Risk Protection Order law. California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York earned extra points for funding urban gun violence reduction programs, which are remarkably effective, non-legislative approaches to preventing shootings. Many states maintained their existing grades thanks to gun safety advocates, who successfully stopped 26 permitless concealed carry bills, 20 guns on campus bills, and 11 stand your ground bills.

Interested in the latest updates on state firearm legislation? Check out Gun Law Trendwatch.

Six Key Policies to Save Lives from Gun Violence

Background Checks

One of the quickest ways to save lives from gun violence is to close the glaring gap in federal law that allows people to buy guns at gun shows, online, and in private sales without undergoing a background check. This deadly loophole makes it all too easy for felons, domestic abusers, and others legally prohibited from owning firearms to get their hands on a gun and do harm. Twelve states have addressed this issue by requiring a background check for all gun transfers, while six states only partially close the loophole, with background check laws that only apply to handgun sales or at gun shows. Comprehensive background checks have proven remarkably effective at preventing shootings—after Connecticut enacted its private-sale background check law, gun homicides dropped by 40%. Learn more about background checks.

Child Access Prevention

Millions of children live in homes with easily accessible guns, which too often leads to unintentional death and injury, teen suicides, and school shootings. Researchers have found that at least one-third of handguns are stored loaded and unlocked and that most children know where their parents keep their guns—even if their parents think otherwise. Fourteen states have comprehensive laws to protect children from accessing guns by imposing liability on people who negligently store firearms, with Massachusetts additionally requiring that all firearms be stored locked and unloaded. Thirteen other states only partially regulate guns in the home, imposing liability only against people who intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly store firearms so minors could, or do, gain access. Learn more about child access prevention.

Concealed Carry Permitting

The presence of guns in public makes it all too easy for everyday conflicts to turn deadly. While all states allow some form of carrying concealed weapons (CCW), the degree to which states regulate who can have a hidden, loaded gun in public varies widely. Nine states have strong permitting systems that grant law enforcement discretion to deny CCW permits based on factors like dangerous behavior or lack of good cause. Twenty-nine other states have laws that only partially protect the public, requiring a CCW permit but setting few qualifications to obtain one. The remaining twelve states don’t require a permit at all to carry concealed. The gun lobby has made a concerted effort to weaken CCW laws in recent years, pushing for permitless carry at the state level and for a dangerous federal law that would force states with strong CCW laws to recognize the laws of states with weak or no CCW permitting. Learn more about concealed carry.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a staggering problem in the United States, and when a gun is involved victims are at even greater risk—abused women are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser owns a firearm. Although federal law and many states prohibit domestic abusers from purchasing guns, not all states have systems in place to ensure that abusers surrender firearms they already own. Twenty-three states comprehensively address this problem by requiring abusers to transfer firearms to law enforcement or a licensed dealer and provide proof to a court that they’ve done so. Fourteen states only partially address this by requiring abusers to surrender guns but not mandating that they provide proof. Policies that keep guns away from domestic abusers are among the most frequently enacted gun laws and enjoy broad popularity in states with otherwise strong gun cultures. Learn more about domestic violence and guns.

Extreme Risk Protection Order

An Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO), also known as a gun violence protective order or gun violence restraining order, provides a mechanism for family, household members, or law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily remove guns from people at proven risk of harming themselves or others. These laws can help prevent mass shootings, domestic violence incidents, and suicide, where people frequently demonstrate clear warning signs of dangerous behavior while experiencing a crisis. Three states, California, Oregon, and Washington, have strong ERPO laws that allow both families and law enforcement to petition for these orders. Connecticut and Indiana have partial ERPO laws that allow only law enforcement to petition to remove guns from at-risk individuals. ERPO laws are relatively new, but have the potential to prevent many shootings, and state lawmakers should adopt them as quickly as possible. Learn more about Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

Military-Style Weaponry

For many years, the gun industry has marketed military-style firearms and accessories to civilians, including assault weaponslarge-capacity ammunition magazines, and silencers. These products are not intended for hunting or self-defense—they are specifically designed to make it easier to efficiently kill high numbers of people in a short amount of time. Last year, a shooter used several AR-15 assault weapons equipped with bump stocks—devices that effectively transform semiautomatic rifles into machine guns—to kill 58 people and injure 851 in Las Vegas, firing 1,000 rounds in just 10 minutes. Six states currently have comprehensive laws in place to prohibit assault weapons, large capacity ammunition magazines, or bump stocks. Four other states have partial laws that regulate these weapons and accessories but do not prohibit them entirely. Learn more about military-style weaponry.

How We Grade The States

Our attorneys have created a comprehensive grading rubric that assigns positive point values to gun safety policies, such as private-sale background checks and extreme risk protection orders, and negative point values to dangerous laws, such as permitless concealed carry. From there, we convert points to letter grades, rank the states, and compare our findings to the latest CDC gun death rates for each state. Every year, the same correlation emerges: high gun law grades are associated with low gun death rates and low gun law grades with high gun death rates.

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