Saturday, December 14, 2013

Changing Gun Laws at the State Level

With the Sandy Hook school shooting anniversary upon us, I wanted to take a look at how much gun laws have changed at the state level.  A brief study by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence looks at which states have strengthened their gun laws.  Here is a summary of the report.

In 2013, Congress basically did nothing to change the nation's gun laws, largely because of partisan gridlock.  In comparison, twenty-one states enacted new laws that strengthened gun laws including Florida, Texas and Missouri.  Of the twenty-one states, eight enacted major reforms.  Here are some examples of the changes to gun legislation that have taken place over the past year:

1.) New York: The SAFE Act tightened restrictions on assault weapons and required mental health workers to report individuals that they believe are a danger to themselves.  As well, background checks have been extended to most gun sales.

2.) Colorado: New laws extend background checks for private and online gun sales and prohibit the sale of large capacity magazines.  In addition, background checks will now be subject to a fee.  That said, two State Senators were recalled over their support of the legislation and one resigned just prior to a recall that was about to take place over her support of gun control laws.

3.) Connecticut: New laws restricting high capacity magazines were implemented and expanded background checks were implemented.  As well, new laws made the ban on assault weapons tougher.

4.) Maryland: New laws that limit gun magazines and ban 45 types of assault weapons were signed into law.  As well, Maryland State Police now have the authority to suspend the licenses of gun dealers that do not keep proper records.

Here is a map from the report showing which ten states had the lowest gun death rate in blue and the ten states with the highest gun death rate in brown:


Here is a list of the top ten states with the strictest gun laws:

California
Connecticut
New Jersey
Maryland
New York
Massachusetts
Hawaii
Illinois
Rhode Island
Delaware

Now, let's compare the list of the ten states with the lowest gun death rate:

Hawaii
Massachusetts
Rhode Island
New York
New Jersey
Connecticut
Minnesota
Iowa
California
Maine

Of the states in both lists, seven have both the strictest gun laws and the lowest gun death rates including:

Hawaii
Massachusetts
Rhode Island
New York
New Jersey
Connecticut
California

Now that we've looked at the changes over the past year, let's look at the influence used by both the gun rights and gun control lobby on politicians at the state level.  Here is a graph showing how both gun rights and gun control political contributions to candidates, political parties and PACs compare at the state level:


Here is a graph showing the national average political contribution per state for state level and federal candidates since 1989 for both gun rights and gun control:


You will notice that the gun rights political contributions are far higher in just above every state than the gun control political contributions, a relationship that has held up over the past two and a half decades.

As we can see, it looks like state governments are stepping up to meet the demands of the public to strengthen gun laws.  Whether or not Congress follows their leadership is, at this point, a complete unknown.


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