As of Thursday, March 1, 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence released the latest edition of its Annual Gun Law Scorecard today, March 1, which grades and ranks each state on the strength of its gun laws.
This comprehensive, 50-state analysis clearly shows how stronger gun laws like background checks help reduce gun death rates and save lives. Washington received a B for its gun safety laws, making it the state with the tenth strongest laws in the country.
Washington has enacted universal background checks, domestic violence prevention measures, and extreme risk protection orders. In 2017, the state also passed a law to allow temporary gun transfers to prevent suicide. However, the state still lacks regulation on ammunition sales and limits on bulk firearm purchases and currently has no laws prohibiting military-style firearms.
Despite Washington’s progress on gun safety, other states have yet to pass these laws:
“Every day in our country, nearly 100 Americans die from gun violence. While this crisis is impacting families in every community in every state, we know its toll disproportionately hits states with weaker gun laws the hardest,” said Robyn Thomas, executive director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Year after year, our research shows that states that get serious about passing stronger gun violence prevention laws have a much better chance of reducing the number of deaths linked to firearms. This scorecard should be a wake-up call to the half of the nation that has failing grades that they are on notice. The Gun Law Scorecard should inspire elected leaders, activists, and concerned citizens to take action.”
The Annual Gun Law Scorecard makes clear that there is a significant opportunity to address the nation’s gun violence epidemic if more states act. Since 2014 the gun death rate has been rising, with gun deaths jumping 8% from 2014 to 2015 and another 7% from 2015 to 2016. That resulted in the deaths of 38,000 people in 2016—the deadliest year for gun deaths since 1993.
Of the 10 states with the lowest gun death rates, eight have some of the strongest gun laws in the country, receiving a B or better. All eight also have passed private-sale background checks. Those eight states are:
• Rhode Island
• New York
• New Jersey
Even with such powerful data showing that states with stronger gun laws have lower death rates, many states have done nothing. The 10 states with the highest gun death rates have some of the weakest gun laws in the nation—with all 10 receiving an F the Gun Law Scorecard. They are, in order of deadliness:
• New Mexico
• South Carolina
States continue trend of passing stronger laws
The scores for some states reflect the continued efforts of Giffords to help lawmakers in state capitals pass strong gun safety measures. Six states received additional points for new domestic violence laws, while five others received more points for funding urban gun violence intervention and prevention programs. Last December, Giffords Law Center, in partnership with PICO National Network and the Community Justice Reform Coalition, released a landmark report, Investing in Intervention: The Critical Role of State-Level Support in Breaking the Cycle of Urban Gun Violence, which highlights innovative programs in three states that dramatically reduce levels of gun violence in impacted communities.
Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown signed an Extreme Risk Protection bill into law after members of Giffords’ Oregon Coalition testified on behalf of the bill and urged Oregon leaders to pass it.
Politicians ignoring the will of the people hurt their state’s gun law scores—and safety
States also experienced setbacks. Nevada’s grade dropped from a C- to a D because a ballot initiative approved by voters in 2016 requiring background checks on private sales of firearms was not implemented. Two other states—North Dakota and New Hampshire—lost points for enacting permitless carry laws in 2017. Iowa also went from a C to a C- because of a new stand your ground law. Stand your ground laws remove a person’s “duty to retreat” in a public conflict, allowing them to shoot to kill even when they could safely walk away.
Activists are leading the charge to beat back dangerous gun lobby bills
This year’s Gun Law Scorecard also highlights how gun violence prevention advocates’ success in thwarting gun lobby–backed bills allowed many states to keep their high grades. In 2017, advocates were successful in stopping 26 permitless carry bills, which would allow people to carry loaded guns in public without a permit or oversight. Advocates also stopped 20 states from enacting measures to allow guns on college and university campuses and beat back stand your ground laws in 11 other states.