Special Report

States With The Strictest Gun Control Laws

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis recently signed four gun control bills into law. Under the new legislation, the legal age for firearm purchases in Colorado will be raised from 18 to 21, and gun buyers will be subject to a mandatory three-day waiting period between purchase and receipt of a firearm. Though these measures are being challenged by gun-rights groups, if they go into effect, they will substantially strengthen Colorado’s existing gun-control laws.

Federal law imposes certain restrictions on machine guns and firearm ownership for convicted felons, illicit drug users, fugitives from justice, and those who have been dishonorably discharged from military service. While most state governments do not meaningfully expand on federal gun control regulations, other states – including Colorado – take a different approach. A number of states, largely concentrated in the Northeast and along the West Coast, have enacted a broad range of gun control laws designed to reduce the likelihood of gun violence. 

These laws often include licensing rules and waiting periods for prospective buyers, restrictions on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, and more tightly-regulated background checks. (Here is a look at the nine states that have banned assault-style weapons.)

Using Gifford Law Center’s Annual Gun Law Scorecard, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states with the strictest gun control laws. Each of the 14 states on this list received a grade of B or higher for their gun control legislation from the gun control advocacy group. States are listed in alphabetical order. 

In addition to gun control laws, we also reviewed data on fatalities involving guns in 2021, the latest year of available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While there are some exceptions, many of the states with the tightest gun laws also have lower than average rates of gun violence. Seven of the 10 states with the lowest gun fatality rates rank on this list. Meanwhile, Colorado and Delaware are the only states on this list to rank among the 25 states with the highest gun-related death rates. (Here is a look at the states where gun-related crimes are surging.)

While the states on this list have stricter gun regulations, gun rights are not altogether absent. Many of these states have not enacted certain restrictions other states have enacted. For example, New York, a state with some of the tightest gun restrictions overall, does not impose a waiting period, as California, Hawaii, Illinois, and nearby Rhode Island do. Other common gun rights in these states include no licensing requirements and no restrictions on bulk firearm purchases. 

It is important to note that the laws noted in this story are broad guidelines, and that legal nuances can vary at the state and local levels.

Click here to see states with the strictest gun control laws.

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