The movement on gun laws is in the states

·2 min read

Data: Giffords Law Center; Chart: Will Chase/Axios. Note: Bills under same category can have varying levels of strength.

Federal gun control proposals have stalled out, but 44 states and the District of Columbia have enacted around 200 gun and community violence-related laws this year, according to data from the gun safety group Giffords Law Center provided to Axios.

Why it matters: Firearm purchases have spiked, with the FBI conducting a record number of firearm background checks last year. President Biden launched efforts to prevent gun violence, but Congress hasn't budged, leaving it to the states to set their own gun laws.

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  • Democrats and a handful of Republicans in the House passed two gun safety bills earlier this year, but they've lost momentum. The bills would face a bigger challenge in the 50-50 Senate.

  • "When it comes to gun safety, the states are largely the leaders," Adzi Vokhiwa, Giffords' federal affairs director, told Axios. She said she has noticed more bills being introduced in Congress — on both sides of the debate — based on newer state gun programs and laws.

Be smart: Not all state laws are created equal. Of the roughly 200 passed this year, some will have sweeping impacts, such as a first-of-its-kind law in New York that makes it easier to sue gun manufacturers.

  • Others will have minimal effect.

  • Only categories considered by Giffords Law Center to be true victories for gun-safety or pro-gun rights advocates were included in the chart above.

By the numbers: In 2021, 23 states and Washington, D.C. passed major gun safety-related laws, while 16 states passed impactful laws backed by pro-gun lobbying groups.

  • Three states — Texas, Tennessee and Utah — enacted at least one measure in both categories. Tennessee passed police reform and funded community violence intervention, but also passed laws allowing adults to carry guns without a permit and the state government to nullify federal gun laws.

  • Eleven other states have also enacted laws that — with varying enforcement mechanisms — discourage or prevent police from acting on certain federal gun laws (nullification).

  • Arkansas, North Dakota and Ohio this year joined 27 other states who have passed Stand Your Ground or Shoot First laws, which allow people to use deadly force in self-defense without having to retreat first.

15 states have enacted police reforms, which are tied to reducing community violence.

  • Colorado passed a law allowing local governments to impose additional gun safety measures (preemption repeal), and Virginia and Oregon also passed similar, though more limited measures.

Between the lines: The partisan divide is clear. The majority of states that passed major gun safety measures this year had Democratic-controlled state legislatures, while every state that passed significant gun rights laws were Republican-controlled.

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