A new national database is helping to make clear what many gun owners already know – that the law concerning firearms can vary hugely from state to state. Whilst the current situation is undoubtedly confusing and frustrating for many professional gun owners, it is hoped that the new database will focus the attention of lawmakers on cleaning up the current mess of gun legislation.
The problem stems, in our opinion, from a lack of enterprise and courage on behalf of federal authorities. From 2014 to 2015, the US experienced the largest annual increase in firearm deaths for 35 years – it increased 7.8% in a single year.
This is clearly unacceptable, but the response of Congress was tepid. The 2015 – 16 session saw just four bills being passed which addressed firearm violence. Given this, it is not surprising that many states felt obliged to take the matter into their own hands, and passed a motley selection of laws that are often unique to each state and in many cases contradictory.
The new database tracks these laws over the past 27 years, and reveals striking differences in the rate and type of gun laws passed in each state.
For instance, the researchers who put together the database found that there are a possible 133 provisions that could be in force to reduce gun violence. Five states currently have fewer than five of these measures in force. On the other end of the scale, two states had 100 or more of these provisions.
Another trend is that states are increasingly passing laws that allow for shootings in self defense. These “stand your ground” laws allow a person, if threatened with serious bodily harm, to shoot their attacker under immunity from prosecuton. Between 2004 and 2017, 24 states passed laws of this type.
A similar story emerges when looking at concealed carry legislation. In the US today, there are 12 states that permit concealed carry without any kind of license or permit. This year alone, three more states are seeking to enact laws that would allow concealed carry without a permit or license.
Another large trend revealed by this database is the increasing level of legal protection offered to gun manufacturers. Laws designed to protect the gun industry have been passed in many states in recent years, offering the industry protection which in unparalleled in other fields. These laws prevent citizens who are injured by firearms from suing the manufacturer of the weapon responsible, and even stop local governments from bringing similar lawsuits.
Whilst we art GND are in general in favour of increased freedoms to own and use guns, we also think that databases like this are useful. Whilst the researchers who conducted this research were clearly doing so in order to further limit Second Amendment rights, they have revealed a problem that we can all agree on – that the current situation with gun legislation is a total mess, and the Congress needs to do more to standardize rights across the US.