2014 Annual Gun Law State Scorecard

As the second anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary approaches, the Law Center is proud to release our 2014 Gun Law State Scorecard, grading each state on its gun laws and analyzing trends in gun legislation nationwide.


In the past two years, states have seen historic and unprecedented progress in adopting gun laws to help keep communities safe from gun violence. A total of 99 new laws strengthening gun regulations have passed in 37 states nationwide since December 12, 2012, and 10 states have made major overhauls to their gun laws. 2014 was a remarkable year for smart gun laws, with California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order law, Washington State’s successful ballot initiative for universal background checks, and seven states adopting legislation to keep guns out of the hands of domestic violence abusers, and look forward to building on this positive momentum in 2015.

Find out how your state did and learn how to improve your state’s grade at gunlawscorecard.org.

America Caught in the Crossfire: How Concealed Carry Laws Threaten Public Safety

December 11, 2009 – the Law Center is pleased to present America Caught in the Crossfire: How Concealed Carry Laws Threaten Public Safety, a brochure examining the public safety risks created by weak laws governing the concealed carrying of firearms in public places. The brochure provides an overview of the wide range of carrying laws across the country, highlights emerging policy issues, examines research on the use of firearms in self-defense, considers the impact of the Second Amendment, and provides common sense policy recommendations to reduce the risks created by permissive carrying laws.

As explained in America Caught in the Crossfire:

  • State concealed carry laws (commonly known as “CCW” laws) vary widely. In some states, individuals must demonstrate a justifiable need to carry a concealed weapon. The vast majority of states, however, do not require “good cause,” and mandate the issuance of a license to anyone who meets minimal requirements.
  • Most existing CCW permitting schemes are full of dangerous gaps, allowing too many people to carry weapons in too many public places.
  • Contrary to the claims of the gun lobby, research shows that permissive CCW laws do not decrease crime. In fact, these laws may increase crime.
  • Federal legislative proposals that would require states to recognize other states’ CCW permits interfere with a state’s ability to set strong permit requirements. Only persons who qualify for and acquire an in-state permit should be allowed to carry a concealed weapon within a state.
  • The Second Amendment presents no barrier to strong regulation of concealed weapons.
  • States that choose to permit the carrying of concealed weapons may adopt common sense policies to reduce the risks created by permissive CCW laws.

Click here to download a PDF of America Caught in the Crossfire

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America’s Ammunition Crisis: Few Laws Exist to Prevent Purchases by Dangerous People Online and in Stores

Since the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, 2012, where James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 58 more, many have expressed shock at the ease with which the gunman acquired his arsenal: a military-style assault rifle, a shotgun, two handguns, a 100-round ammunition magazine, and 6,000 rounds of ammunition.

While the shooter purchased his firearms legally at local gun stores, he ordered his ammunition cache – 3,000 rounds each of handgun and rifle ammunition and 350 shotgun shells, as well as the 100-round magazine – from online retailers over the course of several months prior to the shooting. This ammunition, which was also purchased legally, cost him around $3,000.1

In the aftermath of the Aurora shooting, important questions are being asked about the availability of ammunition, both over the counter and online. While America’s federal gun laws are weak, laws regulating the sale of ammunition are virtually nonexistent. As the facts below reveal, it is far too easy for dangerous people – including convicted criminals – to acquire as much ammunition as they desire. Serious reforms are desperately needed.

statistics on ammunition sales

Federal Laws Regulating Ammunition Sales Are Weak

Federal law prohibits convicted felons and other dangerous people from acquiring both guns and ammunition, but the laws otherwise treat guns and ammunition very differently. Under federal law, a prospective gun purchaser must pass a background check; no background check is required to buy ammunition. A firearms dealer must keep a record of the sale of a firearm that includes the purchaser’s information; no records are kept for the sale of ammunition.

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  1. Jack Healy, Suspect Bought Large Stockpile of Rounds Online, N.Y. Times, July 26, 2012. ⤴︎

Forced Reciprocity: Why Your Community Shouldn’t Be Subject to Other States’ Weak Concealed Handgun Laws

Last updated November 29, 2011

State laws regulating who can carry concealed, loaded handguns and where they may carry them are more permissive than ever before. In most states across the country, almost anyone may carry a concealed handgun in public after meeting some minimum permitting requirements. Still, a handful of states impose important restrictions limiting the number of guns in public, while Illinois and the District of Columbia continue to prohibit concealed carrying entirely.

Emboldened by its successes in state legislatures nationwide, the gun lobby has now turned its attention to Congress, where it is pushing legislation to impose national concealed carry “reciprocity.” Federal reciprocity would force states that issue concealed carry permits to recognize every other state’s permits, eviscerating every state’s authority to restrict who may carry guns within their borders. As described in our report, Forced Reciprocity: Why Your Community Shouldn’t Be Subject to Other States’ Weak Concealed Handgun Laws, forcing states to recognize other states’ permits poses a significant risk to public safety nationwide and tramples the abilities of states to set their own permitting standards to keep their citizens safe.

Download Forced Reciprocity: Why Your Community Shouldn’t Be Subject to Other States’ Weak Concealed Handgun Laws

Gun Laws Matter: A Comparison of State Firearms Laws and Statistics

Download a PDF of Gun Laws Matter

July 14, 2010 – The Law Center is pleased to present Gun Laws Matter: A Comparison of State Firearms Laws and Statistics, a brochure that analyzes and compares firearms laws and statistics in all 50 states. States were ranked from 1 to 50 based on 25 different policy areas. The brochure provides a map that displays each state’s rank and whether the state’s gun death rate is above or below the national average. The brochure explains that many of the states with the strongest gun laws also have the lowest gun death rates and vice versa. For example, the 10 states with the strongest gun laws are California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island and Florida. More than half of these states are in the bottom ten states for gun death rates. The brochure also lists the ten best and worst states for rates of gun deaths, gun ownership and crime gun exports (in addition to gun laws); best and worst practices and which states have implemented them; and details the laws in the state with the strongest gun laws (California), and the weakest (Arizona).  Continue reading

Guns in Public Places: The Increasing Threat of Hidden Guns in America

Last updated August 17, 2011

Guns in Public Places examines how dramatic changes in state laws have significantly expanded the number of people who may carry concealed, loaded handguns in public. This brochure also documents how weak laws in many states now allow hidden guns in schools, places of worship, bars, and parks, creating dangerous new risks to the American public.

Download an annotated full-color PDF of our Guns in Public Places brochure.

The Dramatic Weakening of Concealed Weapon Laws Nationwide

Common sense dictates that having more guns in public increases the risks of gun violence, which is why 56% of Americans oppose laws allowing people to carry concealed, loaded handguns in public places.1 Historically, most states either prohibited or severely limited concealed carrying. Handgun carrying bans were among the earliest gun laws adopted by states;2 even legendary Old West frontier towns like Dodge City, Kansas, knew better than to allow the carrying of hidden pistols.3 In the twentieth century, some states adopted “may issue” permitting systems, granting law enforcement the discretion to issue concealed carry permits to persons who could demonstrate a legitimate need to carry a hidden gun in public.4 Other states continued to ban concealed carrying altogether.  Continue reading

  1. Lake Research Partners for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Findings from a National Survey of 600 Registered Voters, April 26-28, 2010. ⤴︎
  2. Saul Cornell, A Well-Regulated Militia 137-44 (2006). ⤴︎
  3. Bill Draper, Guns Still an Issue in Modern-Day Dodge City, Lawrence J.-World, Mar. 7, 2004. ⤴︎
  4. See Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety §§ 5-303, 5-306(a). ⤴︎

New Data After Aurora Shooting:
Assault Weapon Ban Worked 1994 – 2004

Data on the Effectiveness of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban

Did the federal ban on military-style assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines work? Data shows overwhelming support for the 1994 ban.123

Last Friday’s horrific shooting in Colorado was a shocking reminder of the tremendous damage that can be done when military-style guns get into the wrong hands. The accessibility of assault weapons, in conjunction with large capacity ammunition magazines, enables lethality on a scale that is simply devastating. Today, only a small number of states regulate assault weapons and large capacity magazines. Because our porous borders allow guns to easily travel between states, even states that take steps to protect their communities from these weapons are vulnerable to them without a comprehensive federal law.

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  1. Christopher S. Koper, An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on GunMarkets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003, Report to the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice (June 2004) 49. ⤴︎
  2. About the Project: The Hidden Life of Guns, Wash. Post, Jan. 22, 2011; David S. Fallis & James V. Grimaldi, Virginia data show drop in criminal firepower during assault gun ban, Wash. Post, Jan. 23, 2011. ⤴︎
  3. Id. ⤴︎

Regulating Guns in America: An Evaluation and Comparative Analysis of Federal, State and Selected Local Gun Laws

Regulating Guns in America is designed for use by state and local officials, law enforcement, and gun violence prevention advocates. It provides a comprehensive, national review of existing federal and state laws on more than twenty topics covering all major areas of gun policy. It also includes a discussion of local laws in ten major U.S. cities. In addition to identifying existing laws in each jurisdiction, the report compares and contrasts different policy approaches used to address each topic, and offers a list of features that characterize the most comprehensive legislative solution in each area.

Click here to download a PDF of Regulating Guns in America

State Gun Law Trendwatch

A key component of the work our legal experts do here at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is tracking and analyzing firearms legislation in all 50 states. As the legislative cycle kicks into gear, we’ve noticed several patterns. Our biweekly Gun Law Trendwatch rounds up and analyzes the positive legislative trends (such as bills that are being considered in a handful of states to require background checks for private sales), negative legislative trends (like a spate of campus carry bills), and a roundup of bills on the move. We hope you find Trendwatch useful in your legislative efforts this year.



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Tracking State Gun Laws: 2014 Developments


In April of this year, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed HB 60, a bill which expands the ability to carry firearms in public spaces such as bars and airports. The media was quick to report that this bill is evidence of a backlash against the many significant gun violence prevention laws enacted in the states last year, despite the media’s predominant narrative from last year that, after Newtown, more states weakened gun laws and the gun lobby “won”. The truth is that the recent media narratives are far from accurate.

Since Newtown, about the same number of laws (64) have strengthened state gun regulations as those that have weakened them (70), not including 38 newly-enacted gun laws that have a minimal impact on gun violence. However, a strict comparison of these numbers without deeper insight into the substance of the laws and where they were enacted is only half the story. Of the states that enacted laws to strengthen gun regulation, 8 states made very significant and, in some cases, sweeping changes to the way it regulates firearms. Alternatively, only 4 states enacted laws that have significantly weakened gun regulation.

Despite popular belief, in the last sixteen months since Newtown, the media has incorrectly portrayed the complicated and nuanced activity in fifty different state legislative bodies. The new laws have been tallied, and often, have been inappropriately equalized. Small bills which keep concealed weapons permit holders’ information private have been categorized as having equal weight to sweeping new laws that require background checks and ban assault weapons. The stories proclaiming the Georgia bill to be a pro-gun backlash make little of the fact that it was the NRA’s top priority in Georgia for two years and, after failing last year, barely scraped by this year and only in a watered-down version. The backlash stories also fail to mention the groundswell of activism that rose in opposition to the bill and succeeded in forcing the gun lobby to strip provision after provision from the measure.

The Law Center has tracked state firearms laws in all fifty states since 2009. Above is a map outlining the breadth of laws that have passed since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. Our analysis of legislative trends is based on watching and analyzing all gun legislation as it moves through state houses. The data shows us that the public’s mobilization after Newtown resulted in real and sustained change in legislative outcomes, as our team tracks new laws to strengthen gun policy come to unexpected states like South Carolina and Florida while an enormous number of bills to weaken state gun laws get watered down and end without progress.

In addition, a Mother Jones analysis comparing the population of states where gun laws were strengthened to states where they were weakened concluded that more than half of the country lives in states with stronger gun laws since Newtown.

More important than the numbers, or even the context surrounding the numbers, are the real people who have dedicated their lives to changing our nation’s gun laws since Newtown. New organizations such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Sandy Hook Promise, and Texas Gun Sense and many, many more have formed in just the last sixteen months. Real change happens when real people take action. The story after Newtown is that in every state people are making their voices heard, fighting to strengthen firearms laws, and opposing the gun lobby’s profit-driven efforts. This part of the story is only just beginning and real change will be measured in the lives that are saved.


In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, there is no doubt that public support for sensible gun laws has soared. Many legislators are following the lead of the people and fighting for strong new policies to fill the gaps in gun regulation left by Congress. Continue reading