Pressure Leads to Progress

Group 2
67 gun safety bills were signed into law in 26 states and DC in 2018.

Progress State by State

2018 made one thing clear: Americans are ready to address gun safety and reject the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda. Despite a continued lack of progress at the federal level, lawmakers understand that inaction in the wake of tragedy is no longer acceptable, and state legislatures are responding to the demands of Americans to act to save lives from gun violence.

All year long, and especially since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14, states across the country have been passing legislation to protect Americans from gun violence and make our communities safer places to live, work, and play.

Progress in 2018:

The gun safety movement didn’t just help pass good bills, it also helped defeat defeat dozens of dangerous gun lobby-backed bills in more than half of the states this year. The gun lobby’s top legislative priorities – guns in schools, guns on college campuses, and repealing laws requiring permits to carry a concealed firearm – were thwarted in 2018.

Recent polling continues to show that voters from across the political spectrum want to see elected officials act to strengthen our gun laws. Americans know that gun violence is not a partisan issue, and statehouses across the country are beginning to agree. Many of the states that have taken proactive steps to address our gun violence epidemic are led by Republicans, and gun violence prevention proved to be a defining issue in the 2018 election in both red states and blue states.

Pressure leads to progress

In 2018, the states that signed some of the most robust gun safety bills into law include:

  • Florida, a state with a history of recklessly weak gun laws, passed a gun safety reform package after the Parkland shooting that was supported by its Republican governor and Republican legislature. These reforms included critical gun violence prevention policies to establish an extreme risk protection order, raise the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21, ban bump stocks, and extend the mandatory three-day waiting period on handgun purchases to all firearms at gun dealers. Giffords, working in partnership with Parkland students and families as well as key legislative leaders, provided technical and strategic assistance and message guidance on the gun safety provisions to help advance this package.
  • Maryland further strengthened its gun laws by passing a gun safety package that helps remove guns from people who are exhibiting dangerous behavior, prohibits the purchase and possession of bump stocks and similar devices, and provides critical funding for lifesaving violence intervention programs. Signed by the state’s Republican governor, the bills establish an extreme risk protection order, remove firearms from domestic abusers, ban bump stocks, and provide state financial support for evidence-based public health programs. Giffords worked closely with state advocates and stakeholders in Maryland to support these proposals, and spearheaded efforts with Baltimore legislators and advocates to secure critical financial investment from the state that will work to break the cycle of gun violence in Baltimore and other urban communities.
  • Vermont, a state that had effectively no gun safety laws on the books and a long history of entrenched gun culture and high gun ownership rates, enacted a sweeping gun safety package that was signed into law by its Republican governor. The state will now require background checks on most gun sales and allow state law enforcement officials to petition courts for extreme risk protection orders, which temporarily prevent people who pose a demonstrated risk of violence from accessing firearms. It will also limit the size of magazines to 15 rounds for handguns and 10 rounds for long guns. Giffords activated gun owners across the state who supported these proposals and worked to amplify their voices during the debates in the state capitol.
  • Delaware continued to build upon its success enacting gun safety laws in recent years. Giffords, along with members of the Giffords Delaware Coalition and other state partners, joined together to advocate for legislation to establish a lethal violence protection order, also called an extreme risk protection order, to temporarily prevent people who pose a demonstrated risk of violence from having access to firearms. Giffords worked closely with lawmakers and advocates to draft and pass this lifesaving legislation, including testifying in the House Administration Committee and joining Governor John Carney at the bill signing. In addition to passing the extreme risk law, Governor John Carney also signed into law a ban on bump stocks and a bill to facilitate removal of firearms from a person who is dangerous due to mental illness.
  • New Jersey established itself as a leader on gun safety with the passage and signing of a six-bill package. Governor Murphy, elected in 2017 after campaigning on a promise to strengthen New Jersey’s already strong gun laws, signed into law a number of bills that Governor Christie had vetoed, as well as several new measures. In addition to enacting the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2018, the Garden State also passed laws to strengthen background checks and concealed carry permitting requirements, as well as reduce the state’s allowable magazine capacity from 15 to 10. Giffords worked closely with Governor Murphy and key leaders in the state house to advance this robust package of strong gun laws.

To see a fuller list of states that took action in 2018, including traditionally red states like Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Louisiana, and Utah, check out our end-of-year edition of Gun Law Trendwatch from Giffords Law Center.

Building on Success

This new wave of gun safety activism builds on efforts from last year’s legislative session, when state legislators passed 16 lifesaving policies, including strengthening background checks and closing domestic violence loopholes. In 2017, 13 states also rejected measures to allow guns on campuses, and legislators in 20 states defeated measures to allow people to carry loaded, concealed firearms in public without a permit. This continued success shows how the gun violence prevention movement has maintained the historic momentum since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School six years ago. In fact, since 2013, nearly 290 gun safety laws have been enacted in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

That groundwork paved the way for 2018 to be such a landmark year for gun safety. Americans spoke up, walked out, marched, knocked, voted—and it worked. From legislative progress in the states to a new gun safety majority on its way to the US House of Representatives in January, those of us who worked toward a safer future have much to show for it this year. And come January, we’ll be ready to keep building on this momentum.