Most Scores Remain Low Despite Renewed Push For Stronger Gun Laws
To read the full state by state ranking, click here.
-– Most states have weak or non-existent gun laws that help feed the illegal gun market, allow the sale of guns without Brady background checks and put families and children at risk, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. But more and more states are pushing legislation to strengthen their gun laws. The organization’s 2008 state scorecards, which rate each state on the strength of its gun laws, are being released today for all 50 states.
“Once again, the scores for most states are abysmal. Most people don’t realize how few laws we have on the books restricting easy access to guns. As a result, we continue to make it too easy for dangerous people to get dangerous weapons,” says Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign. “We need tougher federal laws, but action at the state level can halt gun violence and pave the way for common sense federal gun laws.”
No states got a better score for 2008 than for 2007. Five states saw their scores drop: Florida, Georgia and Louisiana for passing laws forcing employers to allow employees to bring guns into workplace parking lots, and two states, West Virginia and Wyoming, for passing so-called “Shoot First” laws that authorize deadly force in public against a perceived threat even if ways to avoid the threat are available.
The scores range from a mere two points out of a hundred – in Kentucky, Louisiana and Oklahoma – to a score of 79 for California. Other high scores include those for Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and New York.
The Brady Campaign is seeing a marked increase in the number of states pushing for stronger gun laws. State lawmakers across the country are ramping up efforts to pass new legislation on gun violence prevention, following nearly a decade during which gun advocates dominated state houses. Much of the proposed legislation focuses on cutting off easy gun access to convicted criminals and the dangerously mentally ill and on improving methods to trace guns used in crimes.
Last year, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence identified 52 bills it considers a priority for passage in 22 states, compared with 30 such bills two years ago. The Brady Campaign expects even more states to make the push for stronger gun laws during 2009 state legislative sessions. In sharp contrast, the gun lobby proposals to force guns on college campuses and in the workplace are being met with limited or little success. Last year, the NRA lost in all 17 states where they introduced legislation to force guns on college campuses. It is presumed that the gun lobby will again try to push both pieces of legislation.
The Brady Scorecards are designed so that states can score up to 100 points across five major categories of laws: Curbing Firearm Trafficking; Strengthening Brady Background Checks; Child Safety; Banning Military-style Assault Weapons; and making it harder to carry Guns In Public Places. The national state-by-state scores are available in complete category-by-category detail at www.bradycampaign.org.
Weak state gun laws create a dangerous combination of risk: they don’t require Brady background checks for every gun purchase and they don’t take other actions to effectively combat gun trafficking. For example, states like Arizona, Kansas, Florida, Missouri and Texas don’t check the background of every gun purchaser, thus making it easier for felons and other prohibited purchasers to get guns, and they also have no laws on the books to effectively combat trafficking in illegal guns. As a result, they make it a lot easier for dangerous people to access guns.
The categories covered by the 2008 scorecards are as follows:
* States can earn up to 35 points by taking all measures needed to “Curb Firearm Trafficking.” States can fully regulate the gun dealers within their borders, limit bulk purchases of handguns, provide police certain technology to identify crime guns, and require lost or stolen guns to be reported to the police.
* States can earn up to 25 points by “Strengthening Brady Background Checks.” This involves requiring background checks on all gun sales and requiring a permit in order to purchase firearms. Short of universal background checks, states can also close the gun show loophole, at least requiring background checks for all gun show sales.
* States can earn up to 20 points by “Protecting Child Safety” when it comes to guns. States can require that only childproof handguns be sold within their borders, require child safety locks to be sold with each handgun, hold adults accountable for keeping guns away from kids and teens, and require handgun purchasers to be at least 21 years of age.
* States can earn up to 10 points by “Banning Military-style Assault Weapons,” as well as banning high-capacity ammunition magazines.
* States can earn up to 10 points by making it harder to carry “Guns In Public Places” (except for trained law enforcement and security) and by allowing localities to “Preserve Local Control” over municipal gun laws. This includes keeping guns out of workplaces and college campuses, not forcing law enforcement to issue concealed handgun permits on demand, not permitting “shoot first” expansions in self-defense laws, and not preventing municipalities from passing their own gun laws.
Acknowledgements and thanks go to the Legal Community Against Violence for their research on state gun laws. Their publication, “Regulating Guns in America,” and website served as a basis for these scorings. For more information about Legal Community Against Violence, see www.lcav.org.
Editor's Note: To read the NRA's response to the new Brady scorecard, click here.
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