Americans overwhelmingly agree that dangerous people shouldn’t be able to access deadly weapons—yet a dangerous gap in our laws makes it far too easy for armed felons and violent criminals to illegally keep their guns after they’re convicted.
Our report Keeping Illegal Guns Out of Dangerous Hands: America’s Deadly Relinquishment Gap provides an overview of relinquishment laws in all 50 states and identifies a series of best practices lawmakers can adopt to save lives from gun violence and close this deadly loophole.
Laws that prohibit convicted criminals from purchasing new weapons aren’t enough to keep Americans safe from gun violence. States should mandate that these newly prohibited individuals turn in, sell, or otherwise rid themselves of their weapons after conviction, and require proof that these people are no longer in possession of their guns.
In California, the state with the strongest gun laws in the nation, law enforcement reported that in 2014 alone, more than 3,200 people illegally kept their guns after a new criminal conviction. Many of these individuals went on to commit crimes with those guns. Relinquishment laws would help prevent this.
Our research on gun relinquishment also revealed:
- States often rely on the honor system to manage the relinquishment process, trusting violent criminals and other prohibited people to voluntarily turn in their weapons.
- Failure to implement relinquishment procedures often has deadly consequences: Multi-state surveys of prison inmates indicate that between 40% and 69% of those incarcerated for firearm-related crimes were legally prohibited from owning firearms when they committed their offense.
- It costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year when prohibited people like violent felons are picked up on weapons charges and subsequently incarcerated.
The firearm relinquishment gap puts Americans in all 50 states at grave risk. Keeping Illegal Guns Out of Dangerous Hands aims to address the challenge of relinquishment and to encourage lawmakers to establish best practices and mandatory procedures to keep illegal weapons out of our communities.
We hope this report will help provide a path to effective gun violence prevention for lawmakers, so fewer Americans fall victim to heartbreaking, preventable shootings.