Gun Control in the States

With recent events, there is much talk about guns and gun control policy. Here are a few bits to help understand the landscape.

Guns as a Public Health Issue

The American Medical Association this week endorsed a policy resolution calling on Congress to end the decades-old ban on gun violence research by the CDC. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports from 1996 through 2014, murder rates with various weapons – including firearms – is below.

Concealed Carry

The last 30 years have seen a dramatic change in concealed carry laws. Looking at state laws in 1986, 41 states had either “May Issue” laws or did not permit concealed carry at all. Updated to 2016, concealed carry is off the charts with estimates of state-issued concealed carry permits now topping 13 million. The concealed carry movement is currently manifesting itself with new state laws deemed “constitutional carry” in which no permits or licenses of any kind are needed to carry firearms – concealed or otherwise.


Assault Weapon Bans

The federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004. Seven states and the District of Columbia currently have laws restricting or limiting so-called assault weapons based on firearm features.


Magazine Capacity Restrictions

Nine states and DC have restrictions on firearm magazine capacity - typically limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds. Exceptions include Colorado at 15 and Virginia at 20 rounds of ammunition. While the use of larger capacity magazines in Virginia is not illegal, their use transforms the weapon in which it is used into an "assault weapon" subject to certain restrictions under state law.


State Preemption of Local Firearm Laws

43 states prohibit local governments within their jurisdiction from having more restrictive laws related to firearms than does the state as a whole. Again, each of the remaining seven states are different and tackle the issue in varying ways.


Background Checks

Federal law requires that background checks be conducted by licensed firearms dealers at the point of sale. Federal law does not require that background checks be conducted for private sales between individuals - this is the so-called "gun show loophole."  A total of 18 states require some form of background check for firearm sales beyond the requirements of federal law: eight states and DC require background checks for all firearm sales; two states require such checks for all handgun sales; four states require the purchaser to have obtained a permit for the sale; and four states require such permit purchases for handguns only.



FBI Uniform Crime Reports -

Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence -

NRA-ILA State Gun Laws -

ATF – Laws on Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives -