2024 GUn LAW

A Roundup and Analysis of the Latest State Firearm Legislation from GIFFORDS Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence


Gun Law Trendwatch rounds up the latest information on gun legislation in America.

Each year, our attorneys track and analyze state firearm legislation, both positive and negative, as it’s proposed across the country, researching close to 2,000 bills annually. Distributed monthly during the first half of the year, when the majority of state legislatures are in session, Gun Law Trendwatch follows developments in gun policy, documents key victories, and monitors the gun lobby’s efforts to undermine public safety.

Read our latest updates below, check out which states have bills in motion, or browse through Trendwatch editions from previous years.


Interested in partnering with us to draft, enact, or implement lifesaving gun safety legislation in your community? Our attorneys provide free assistance to lawmakers, public officials, and advocates working toward solutions to the gun violence crisis.


May 2024: Delaware’s Decisive Action

This will be our last regular post of Trendwatch for the year. We’ll be back soon with more updates as additional state legislative sessions come to an end.

Like many other cities across the country, Wilmington, Delaware, continues to suffer from devastating gun violence. Fortunately, state leaders have taken notice and are taking concrete steps to reduce the crisis. 

On May 16, Delaware Governor John Carney signed into law SB 2, which requires people to obtain a purchaser permit before they can buy a handgun, whether from a dealer or a private seller. Three factors make someone ineligible for a permit: Being under the age of 21, being prohibited under federal or state law from possessing or purchasing firearms, or having been determined by state police to pose a danger to themself or others. Additionally, the law requires completion of firearm safety training within the past five years. 

Importantly, applicants must also appear in person to have their fingerprints taken by the state police. This provides additional protection against fraud or inaccuracies that could allow dangerous individuals to obtain handguns. A strong permitting process like this can also prevent instantaneous purchases of firearms for impulsive acts of violence, including suicide. 

The NRA, unsurprisingly, opposed the Delaware bill, calling the measure “extreme” and urging its members to ask the governor to oppose it. But public officials and Delaware residents know that requirements like firearm safety training and submitting fingerprints are commonsense—and save lives.

We know strong permit to purchase laws work to prevent gun violence. After Connecticut passed its licensing law, its gun homicide rate dropped by 28%, and its gun homicide rate dropped by 33%. States with in-person application or fingerprinting requirements have 56% fewer fatal mass shootings.

And the gun lobby will not succeed in challenging these laws in court. Even while significantly curtailing states’ authority to deny concealed carry permits, the Supreme Court made clear in Bruenthat it wasn’t touching gun permitting that requires safety training or other relevant procedures.

Last year, Michigan passed a similar law expanding its handgun permitting process. It went into effect in February of this year, and now firearm purchasers must have either a valid purchasing license or a license to carry a concealed handgun to buy any type of firearm. Time will prove just how impactful these strong permitting laws are. 

Unfortunately, we’ve also seen states roll back their permit to purchase laws. In 2021, Iowa repealed its handgun permit requirement, meaning that individuals buying handguns from private sellers were no longer required to undergo a background check. 

But there’s evidence that demonstrates just how dangerous removing these laws are. After Missouri repealed its permitting law in 2007, there was an increase of between 25% and 47% in gun homicides, and a 23.5% increase in firearm suicides in the state. Additionally, the share of crime guns recovered in Missouri that originated from in-state retail purchases doubled.

We know that permits to purchase firearms are a commonsense measure to ensure that people trying to buy guns 1) are who they say they are and 2) are not likely to harm themselves or others. Passing permit to purchase laws decreases gun violence, while repealing these laws increases it. However, the gun lobby continues to fight against commonsense, lifesaving solutions at every turn.

2024 Bills in Motion

For more than three decades, GIFFORDS Law Center has helped states pass evidence-based gun safety policies while fighting the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda. This year, both gun safety bills and gun lobby bills are moving in statehouses across the country, as lawmakers go head to head over protecting their communities from gun violence versus caving to the whims of the gun lobby. 

So far in 2024, at least 43 states and Washington DC have active gun safety bills.

Gun Safety Bills in Motion

  • BACKGROUND CHECKS: CT HB-5467 passed the senate and was signed by the governor. MA H-2367 passed a committee. The following bills failed: MO HB-1878, MO HB-2487, MO HB-2714, and MO HB-2715. Bills that would enact universal background checks or strengthen existing background check laws are pending in at least eight states.
  • COMMUNITY VIOLENCE: CA AB-2064 and CA AB-2882 passed the assembly. CA SB-950 passed the senate. CO HB-1430 was signed by the governor. LA SB-479 passed a committee. MD HB-583/SB-475 and MD SB-360 were signed by the governor. MI SB-767 passed the house. MN SB-5289 was signed by the governor. The following bills failed: MS HB-4094, MS SB-3224, and SC HB-5100. At least 11 states and Washington DC have bills pending that allocate, protect, or administer funding for evidence-based violence prevention programs.
  • DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: CA SB-899 passed the senate. CA AB-2907 and CA AB-3083 passed the assembly. IL SB-2683 passed the house and is eligible for the governor’s signature. At least seven states have bills pending that would improve efforts to keep guns out of the hands of people who commit domestic abuse.
  • GHOST GUNS: VT SB-209 became law without the governor’s signature. MA HB-2312, MA HB-2370, and MA HB-2360 each passed a committee. MN SB-5531 failed. VA HB-173 and VA SB-100 were both vetoed by the governor. At least four states have bills pending that regulate ghost guns or improve the effectiveness of their ghost gun policies.
  • INDUSTRY ACCOUNTABILITY: MD HB-947 was signed by the governor. At least two states and Washington DC have bills pending that would allow survivors to hold the gun industry accountable in court.
  • EXTREME RISK PROTECTION ORDERS: CA AB-2096 passed a committee. CA AB-2917 passed the assembly. CA SB-899 passed the senate. MD SB-905 was signed by the governor. NY SB-3340 is eligible for the governor’s signature. The following bills failed: AK HB-162, AK SB-229, AL HB-49, KS HB-2245, and OK HB-3245. At least seven states have bills that would establish or strengthen laws that allow courts to issue orders to temporarily remove guns from those who pose a risk to themselves or others.

Gun Lobby Bills in Motion

  • GUNS IN SCHOOLS: The following bills failed: AK SB-173, IL SB-2333, IL SB-2389, MN HB-256, MN HB-663, MN HB-1765, MN HB-1897, MN SB-90, MN SB-1800, MN SB-942, SC HB-4708, and OK HB-3012. Dangerous bills to allow or expand the ability to carry guns in school or on campus are pending in at least 10 states.
  • PERMITLESS CARRY: Bills to remove requirements for a permit to carry a concealed weapon are pending in at least three states.
  • STAND YOUR GROUND: The following bills failed: IL HB-5803, MN HB-356, MN HB-658, MN HB-661, MN HB-1288, MN HB-1931, MN HB-5368, MN SB-181, MN SB-633, MN SB-1125, MN SB-1767, MN SB-986, MN SB-5412, MO HB-2559, MO SB-771, MO SB-783, MO SB-989, MO SB-1117, MO SB-1146, SC HB-3008, SC HB-3040, SC HB-3442, and WI SB-517. At least three states have bills that would extend the right to use deadly force and claim self-defense.
  • LIABILITY FOR ENFORCING GUN LAWS: The following bills failed: AK HB-372, OK SB-1785, OK SB-1791, and OK SB-1971. Bills that would make law enforcement officers or other state and local government officials personally liable, or otherwise impose onerous penalties on law enforcement agencies or localities, for enforcing federal gun laws are pending in at least two states. 
  • MERCHANT CATEGORY CODE: AL S-281 was signed by the governor. LA S-301 is eligible for the governor’s signature. NH HB-1186 is eligible for the governor’s signature. OH SB-148 passed the senate. The following bills failed: AL HB-389, KS HB-2722, MO HB-2778, OK HB-3221, and OK SB-2016. At least six states have bills pending that would prohibit credit card companies or similar entities from using a code to identify firearm businesses.
  • MANDATORY BANKING: LA SB-234 is eligible for the governor’s signature. The following bills failed: KS HB-2404, MO HB-1699, MO SB-815, MO SB-980, MO SB-1061, MO SB-1397, SC HB-3393, SC HB-3564, and OK HB-3222. Bills that would penalize banks or other companies that refuse to do business with the gun industry are pending in at least three states.

April 2024: The Gun Lobby Won’t Protect Students

In Tennessee, just a year after the shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville left six dead, the only laws the state has enacted in response are ones that allow more guns in schools.  

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed two such bills this month. One of those bills, HB 1202/SB 1325, authorizes school districts to allow teachers and staff to carry concealed handguns in schools, subject to certain conditions. This is consistent with the gun lobby’s strategy to sell more guns by arming educators, which more than half of all states have followed. A similar guns-in-schools bill also became law in Iowa in recent weeks. These measures ignore the fact that teachers and school staff are not trained law enforcement officers and that there is zero evidence that arming teachers will protect children in schools. 

In fact, guns in schools may increase the risk of a dangerous incident: GIFFORDS has documented about 100 incidents of guns being mishandled in schools over the last five years. There have been situations where an educator has dropped a gun while doing cartwheels, accidentally fired a gun in a classroom during a “safety” demonstration, or left a gun unattended in a school bathroom. In Missouri, two middle-school students even stole a gun that a teacher brought to school. 

The new Tennessee law arming teachers has received considerable attention from the media for defying the wishes of both parents and teachers themselves, who do not generally support proposals to arm teachers. Several school districts have already announced that they will opt out. 

The other bill that Governor Lee signed this month has received less media attention, but still carries significant implications for schools. SB 1715/HB1664 gives local law enforcement agencies the authority to assign an armed school resource officer to a school, even if the school district itself does not want an officer there. The research on the effects of school resource officers in schools is mixed—some studies suggest they can have a lasting negative and racially disproportionate impact, including contributing to increased expulsion and arrest rates and the school-to-prison pipeline, and negatively influencing students’ perceptions of law enforcement later in life.

Notably, after the Uvalde school shooting in 2022, Texas passed a similar law requiring each school to have at least one armed security officer or armed staff member present during regular school hours. Despite having armed staff, in the past two weeks alone three North Texas communities have experienced gun violence in their schools, prompting walkouts by students and exasperation from law enforcement officials.

We know that arming teachers and having more guns in schools is unlikely to make schools any safer or help save lives during a school shooting. If lawmakers are serious about protecting students and keeping schools safe from gun violence, they need to focus on stopping shootings before they happen and pass comprehensive gun safety laws that keep guns out of the hands of people who want to do harm.

March 2024: Standing Up to the Gun Lobby

Some of the nation’s worst mass shootings, including in Aurora, San Bernardino, and Orlando, involved guns purchased with credit cards. And usually, these purchases were accompanied by egregious behavior that should have raised red flags. 

In 2016, for example, the Pulse nightclub shooter in Orlando obtained six new credit cards that he used to purchase over $26,000 in guns and ammunition. He then used these weapons to kill 50 people and wound more than 50 others in what was then the worst mass shooting in recent American history. 

Credit card fraud also facilitates straw purchasing and firearm trafficking, fueling everyday gun violence. In 2021, the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan indicted 10 people for a scheme in which they used stolen credit card information to purchase firearms online, some of which were then resold for profit. The group obtained over 40 firearms, three of which were recovered from convicted felons. 

Mass shootings prompted gun safety advocates to take action.

Until recently, credit card companies like Visa, Mastercard, and American Express identified almost every kind of business—restaurants, toll roads, and even snowmobile dealers—but they didn’t identify gun and ammunition sellers. Instead these businesses were categorized with the generic code for sporting goods retailers.

Due to this discrepancy, in 2022, a number of high-level public officials, law enforcement groups, and a coalition of gun safety organizations—including GIFFORDS—advocated for the creation of a merchant category code that would distinguish purchases from gun stores and ammunition sellers from other purchases at other sporting goods stores. Doing so would allow the credit card companies and law enforcement to identify suspicious patterns of gun and ammunition purchases—preempting mass shootings and illegal firearm trafficking. 

Merchant category codes (MCCs) are four-digit numbers used by credit card companies to classify businesses by the type of goods or services provided. In response to our pressure, the International Standards Organization created a new code, giving credit card companies the ability to identify when transaction history indicates an individual may be trafficking firearms or stockpiling firearms and ammunition for a mass shooting.

The gun lobby has stalled progress on the new merchant category codes.

Unsurprisingly, the gun lobby objects to the use of the MCC. It falsely claims that the new MCC for guns and ammunition is an invasion of privacy designed to create a gun registry, and it’s pushed this narrative by exploiting fears about gun confiscations. As a result, in 2023 six states (Mississippi, Idaho, North Dakota, Montana, Texas, and Florida) enacted laws prohibiting banks and other businesses from using merchant category codes specific to firearms and ammunition businesses. In these states, credit card companies are now unable to distinguish between firearm purchases and purchases of general sporting goods, and therefore will not have the necessary information to identify and report troubling patterns that could indicate planned mass violence. As a result of this legislation, in March 2023, credit card companies halted plans to implement the new MCC. 

This year, the gun lobby is doubling down on its attack, supporting legislation in almost 20 states that would entirely prohibit the use of the MCC for guns. Already, Indiana, Kentucky, Utah, and Wyoming have enacted these laws, and bills are pending in at least 14 other states that would follow this trend. Among other things, these bills would cause credit card companies to fail to meet the expectations imposed by federal regulators, which encourage the use of dedicated MCCs for specific industries.

Many states are still fighting for progress.

Notably, one governor has stood on the side of gun safety to buck this trend. On March 29, Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, vetoed one such bill passed by the state’s Republican legislature.

And some states are even moving in the opposite direction, supporting gun safety by encouraging or even requiring use of a specific MCC code for gun and ammunition retailers. Last September, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 1587, requiring the use of the specific merchant category code for these businesses. As a result of this law, in February, the credit card companies restarted their efforts to enable the use of the MCC to comply with California’s law, which requires them to make the firearm and ammunition MCC available by July 1, 2024. 

Similar bills are pending in Colorado and New York. These bills would ensure that purchases of firearms and ammunition are correctly identified in financial records to allow credit card companies to detect suspicious activity, such as fraudulent firearm purchases, firearm trafficking, and weapons stockpiling.

The gun lobby is holding firm in its opposition to the new MCC, but states fighting to protect their communities aren’t backing down. The new merchant category code is a simple and innovative way to prevent future mass tragedies—and if leaders want to save lives, they should stand up to the gun lobby and help implement the new MCC. 

February 2024: Regulating Auto Sears

The gun debate is one of the most polarizing and fraught discussions in American politics, and it often seems like there’s no common ground. 

But that’s not true. The vast majority of Americans support background checks, and nearly two-thirds of Americans support laws that ban large-capacity magazines. Voters overwhelmingly want measures in place that protect their kids and communities from gun violence. But a less obvious point of consensus involves auto sears, also known as “switches” or “machine gun conversion devices.” 

Auto sears are devices designed to convert semiautomatic firearms into automatic firearms (i.e., machine guns). In other words, when one of these devices is installed on a gun, it can fire a continuous stream of bullets with a single pull of the trigger. This feature makes these firearms horrifically destructive. 

Auto sears are banned, but loopholes mean they aren’t gone for good.

Under federal law, auto sears are banned, since the definition of a “machine gun” includes not only any gun capable of firing automatically, but also any part designed and intended solely and exclusively for use in converting a weapon into a machine gun. Manufacturing new machine guns (including new auto sears) for civilian possession has been illegal in the US since 1986, and anyone in possession of a machine gun or an auto sear is guilty of a federal felony. 

Despite this clear and well-established nationwide ban, these devices are too easily available, and law enforcement officers have been encountering more and more of them in recent years. People who commit crimes can obtain these devices through 3D printing or imports and exploit auto sears as a way to threaten horrendous damage. Federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement are finding increasing numbers of auto sears at crime scenes and in cities across the country. They have been found in the possession of people charged with distributing methamphetamine, fentanyl, and oxycodone.

Weak state laws are exacerbating this problem. Too many states have relied solely on the ATF to prevent access to auto sears, even though federal law enforcement officers are rarely available in communities to address the presence of these devices. 

And shockingly, 29 states have weaker laws regarding auto sears than federal law. These states use a definition of machine gun that excludes parts like auto sears and only applies to complete automatic firearms. As a result, these states do not regulate these devices, meaning that state law enforcement officers who encounter them may be reluctant to arrest those who have them or to seize the devices themselves. In those states, enforcement of the federal ban is unlikely unless federal agents get involved.

States are beginning to fight back.

Fortunately, some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are taking steps to fix this problem. In 2023, Louisiana and Indiana enacted laws to close this loophole. While these laws may not look like much, by conforming these states’ definitions of the term “machine gun” to the definition in the federal law, they will encourage compliance with federal law—and help ensure that the residents of these states are less likely to encounter the horrific damage that automatic firearms can cause. 

This year, it looks like progress on this issue may continue. A bill was reported out of the Pennsylvania House Committee on the Judiciary in early February that would add both auto sears and bump stocks to the state’s list of “offensive weapons.” In Mississippi, a bill that would ban machine gun conversion devices—including auto sears—passed out of committee. In Virginia, a bill that would ban auto sears has passed the house, but has yet to be voted on in the senate. 

It will take a wide array of solutions to put an end to gun violence in this country. While there is much more state legislators could be doing, these moderate but positive steps to address the danger that auto sears pose prove that progress on gun safety is possible, even in the most unlikely places.

January 2024: Virginia’s Progress

Legislative sessions have begun in most states, and gun violence prevention bills are already on the move across the country.

For the Virginia legislature, 2024 promises to be a productive year for gun safety. After listening to Virginia residents, lawmakers are likely to put multiple gun violence prevention bills on Governor Glenn Youngkin’s desk that address a wide array of gun policies, including banning assault weapons, auto sears, and ghost guns; limiting the carrying of concealed handguns in public; and ensuring that people convicted of domestic violence turn over their guns. As of February 1, six bills had already passed one chamber, and many other bills had passed out of committee. 

Virginia is prioritizing gun safety once again.

For some longtime gun safety advocates, this activity may feel a little like déjà vu. In 2020 and 2021, following prominent mass shootings in the state, Virginia enacted numerous gun safety bills under then governor Ralph Northam. In 2020, Virginia passed laws that require background checks, require the reporting of lost or stolen firearms, ban bump stocks, allow people to put themselves on a list so they cannot buy firearms, and limit the purchase of handguns to one per month. Then in 2021, Virginia passed laws that disarm people who have committed domestic violence; allow courts to issue extreme risk protection orders; protect polling places, schools, and government buildings from guns; and allow the state police five business days to conduct a background check. Thanks to these new gun safety measures, Virginia’s grade jumped from a D to a B in GIFFORDS Law Center’s Annual Gun Law Scorecard

While progress may have slowed in 2022 and 2023, Virginia was still able to improve its grade from a B to a B+ by investing in community violence prevention programs. In 2023 in particular, Virginia invested $34 million in community violence intervention (CVI) and created the Office of Safer Communities. Governor Youngkin also signed into law a $10 million, one-time appropriation to create the Virginia Mass Violence Care Fund, designed to provide assistance to victims and survivors of mass shootings, as well as their families. 

Despite this progress, Virginians continue to suffer from gun violence. 

The state is a major source of guns trafficked into Maryland, New York, New Jersey, and DC. The District of Columbia, in particular, has been hard hit by gun violence in recent years, and Virginia’s less-than-adequate gun laws bear some responsibility. 

In addition, gun violence in Virginia made headlines last year when a six-year-old boy critically injured a teacher with a handgun in a first grade classroom in Newport News, Virginia. The handgun used by the boy was purchased by his mother and was kept in their home until the boy brought it to school in his backpack the day of the shooting. A few months later, a high school graduation in Richmond was the site of a mass shooting.

Legislators will continue to fight for safer communities.

Luckily, following the results of last year’s elections, gun safety is once again a top priority for the state legislature. In November, Democrats retained control over the state senate and took control of the house of delegates—and, in what one reporter has called a “replay of 2020,” the legislature has already demonstrated a real hunger to pass gun laws that will reduce gun violence. It’s also sparked speculation about whether the Republican governor will sign gun safety legislation into law or veto the popular policies. In the meantime, legislators are continuing to listen to their constituents and put in the work to create safer communities for us all.


Our experts can speak to the full spectrum of gun violence prevention issues. Have a question? Email us at media@giffords.org.



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