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Study shows most states rely on “honor system” for felons to give up their guns when convicted.
In California alone, more than 3,200 people a year illegally keep guns after conviction, many later using those guns in crimes and costing the state $285 million each year.
Firearms relinquishment laws close this gap and create a mechanism for courts to collect guns upon conviction—yet barely any states have these laws.

Today the legal experts at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence released a comprehensive, first-of-its kind report on a glaring and too often overlooked gap in America’s gun laws: firearms relinquishment. Americans overwhelmingly agree that it is common sense to prevent dangerous people from accessing deadly weapons—yet most states lack any sort of mechanism to actually confirm that felons and other prohibited people give up their guns upon conviction. The Law Center’s new report, Keeping Illegal Guns Out of Dangerous Hands: America’s Deadly Relinquishment Gap, analyzes relinquishment laws in all 50 states and identifies best practices lawmakers can adopt to save lives from gun violence.

Firearms relinquishment laws are critical in the fight to keep Americans safe from shootings, ensuring that those convicted of serious crimes simply turn in, sell or otherwise rid themselves of their weapons after conviction. In California, law enforcement reported that in 2014 alone, more than 3,200 people kept their guns after a new criminal conviction, many of whom went on to commit crimes with those guns. Relinquishment laws would stop this.

Keeping Guns Out of Dangerous Hands also reveals:

  • 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.
  • It costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year—$285 million in California alone—when prohibited people like violent felons are picked up on weapons charges and subsequently incarcerated, and many return to prison because they kept their guns illegally.
  • Only five states provide any statutory process for disarming people prohibited from having guns—Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania.

“The law is clear that once you are convicted of certain crimes, you’re simply not allowed to have a gun. Yet 45 states don’t have a process in place to ensure that dangerous individuals actually turn in their firearms,” said Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Relinquishment laws solve this problem by requiring all convicted felons to verify that they have transferred or sold their guns. These laws save lives, impose little burden, and enforce the laws already on the books.”

The Law Center will be hosting a national press call today to discuss the report:

Thursday, September 22
2 pm ET/11 am PT
Phone number: 712-451-0011
Access code: 488929


For more details on the importance of firearms relinquishment procedures, read Keeping Illegal Guns Out of Dangerous Hands at


About the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Founded in the wake of the July 1, 1993, assault weapon massacre at 101 California Street in San Francisco that left eight dead and six wounded, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is now the premier resource for legal expertise and information regarding state and federal firearms laws. Made up of the foremost gun law attorneys in the nation, the Law Center tracks and analyzes firearms legislation in all 50 states, files amicus briefs in critical Second Amendment cases across the country, and works with lawmakers and advocates to craft and promote legislation that will reduce gun violence and save lives. We regularly partner with other nonprofit organizations dedicated to combating the epidemic of gun violence in our country, and we invite you to explore our website,, and to follow us on Twitter at @smartgunlaws to learn more about our work and deepen your knowledge about gun laws in America.