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Giffords Law Center Gun Law Trendwatch: March 24, 2021

A Roundup and Analysis of the Latest State Firearm Legislation

State Legislators Take Long Overdue Action on Undetectable and Untraceable “Ghost Guns”

Every other week during the state legislative cycle, Gun Law Trendwatch breaks down trends in the gun violence prevention universe. We take an in-depth look at a topic of particular interest to legislators and advocates—this week it’s the rapid spread of permitless carry in states around the country—and provide updates on significant gun safety and gun lobby bills as they move through state legislatures.

State of the States

Regulating Ghost Guns

Yet again, America is reeling from two high-profile, senseless acts of preventable gun violence in the span of one week. The Boulder, Colorado, shooter used an assault weapon that allowed him to slaughter 10 individuals in a matter of minutes. It’s long past time for Congress to renew the federal Assault Weapons Ban, an effective piece of legislation that reduced fatalities from mass shootings by 70%. Seven states and DC prohibit these unreasonably dangerous weapons.

But even with a federal ban and bans at the state level, the gun industry has found a way around such legislation by selling parts that individuals can use to easily assemble assault weapons and other firearms in their homes. So-called “ghost guns” might be the most under-the-radar and fastest growing aspect of our nation’s gun violence crisis. 

Ghost guns are undetectable, untraceable firearms often made from kits or 3D-printers. Since these kits and parts can be purchased online without a background check or any other legal oversight, ghost guns allow people to avoid laws intended to keep guns out of the wrong hands. 

According to a recent report by the Pennsylvania attorney general, the number of ghost guns recovered in Philadelphia was up 152% from 2019 to 2020. Several cities in California are also reporting astronomical increases in ghost guns being used in crimes. In fact, the ATF says that one in three crime guns now recovered in California are ghost guns. It’s unsurprising that a state with very strong and effective gun laws is seeing an explosion of these weapons because they allow people to build firearms they cannot legally purchase in the state, such as assault weapons, while evading background checks they cannot pass. 

In addition to being used in homicides, robberies, school shootings and domestic violence, ghost guns are also allowing white supremacist militias to easily and quietly amass arsenals. One group hoping to start a race war and murder law enforcement officers built a fully functional machine gun from parts ordered online. And in 2017, the man responsible for widely distributing the code to make 3D-printed guns launched a crowdfunding platform for white supremacists. With hate-fueled violence on the rise in the United States, ghost guns create grave dangers for public safety in general and for religious, ethnic, and racial minorities in particular.

Fortunately, many states have recognized the growing threat posed by ghost guns and taken steps to regulate their manufacture, sale, and possession. Eight states and DC already regulate or prohibit ghost guns. Another ten states—Delaware (HB 125), Florida (SB 372), Hawaii (HB 1366), Iowa (HB 253), Maryland (HB 638, HB 1291, and SB 624), Nevada (SB 286), New Mexico (HB 166), Oregon (SB 396), Pennsylvania (HB 271, HB 413, HB 414 and HB 415), and Texas (HB 208 and HB 1771)—are looking to tackle ghost gun legislation in 2021. 

States are also deploying other innovative tactics to fight the scourge of ghost guns. The Pennsylvania attorney general conducted two investigations of gun shows hosted by Eagle Arms Productions—the largest gun show promoter in the state—and uncovered a ghost gun trafficking enterprise. In response, Eagle Arms has agreed to prohibit ghost gun kits at their shows. The New York attorney general has also successfully persuaded companies to stop selling some types of ghost gun kits into the state. 

Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit have banned the sharing of blueprints to make 3D-printed guns, as has Facebook, which also prohibits the selling of firearms parts in Facebook Marketplace. Both Facebook and Twitter prohibit ads selling firearm components.

Ghost guns present a new frontier in the fight against gun violence. Advocates and lawmakers must continue to respond swiftly with meaningful legislation to address this latest assault on the safety of all Americans.



The data is clear: states with stronger gun laws have less gun violence. See how your state compares in our annual ranking.

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Gun Safety Spotlight

Americans Want Racial Justice. Community Violence Intervention Programming is a Key Element.

Illinois and Maryland are two states with strong guns laws and relatively low gun death rates. Yet both contain major cities—Chicago and Baltimore—which experience high rates of gun violence that disproportionately impacts underserved communities of color. Approximately 70 American cities account for 41% of all murders in the US. The causes of these higher rates of interpersonal violence are varied, and include police violence and systemic racism. The solutions, however, couldn’t be more clear. 

Less likely to recidivate or be reinjured
Patients who receive hospital-based violence intervention services are four times less likely to be convicted of a violent crime and four times less likely to be violently injured again.


Tina L. Cheng, et al., “Effectiveness of a Mentor-Implemented, Violence Prevention Intervention for Assault-Injured Youths Presenting to the Emergency Department: Results of a Randomized Trial,” Pediatrics 122, no. 5 (2008): 938–946.

Several extremely promising strategic intervention programs have successfully reduced gun violence in the most impacted communities, and states have begun to take notice. For example, in Massachusetts, a state that leads investments in community violence reduction efforts, gun homicide rates fell by 35% from 2010 to 2015, while nationally, gun homicide rates increased by 14%. From 2012 to 2013, a $2 million investment in a violence reduction program in Boston and Springfield, Massachusetts, generated close to $15 million in savings from decreases in crime. 

In 2021, states are continuing the momentum to create and fund these critical, lifesaving programs. In March, the Maryland legislature overrode the governor’s veto to enact 2020 HB 822/SB 708, which appropriates $3.6 million—an 89% increase from 2020—to community violence intervention programs in Baltimore, and an additional $3 million to violence prevention projects in the state. Another 14 states with cities hard-hit by community violence—including California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico and Washington—have bills pending that would create, expand, or fund these programs. 

In 2020, Americans protested for racial justice in unprecedented numbers. In 2021, legislators have the opportunity to take meaningful action by investing in these lifesaving programs.

Gun Lobby Extremism

With Violent Armed Extremism on the Rise, Missouri Senator Wants to Create Secret Militia of Gun Owners

The rise of far right extremism and its intersection with armed militias has been a cause for concern for many. Not so for Missouri State Senator Bill White (R-32), who introduced SB 528, which would create a state militia of armed residents known as the Minutemen. Any Missouri resident who is legally able to possess a firearm would be eligible to participate in the state militia. 

Despite a state militia being entirely unnecessary (the National Guard is deployed to assist states during emergencies), Senator White’s militia would likely attract hate-fueled extremists thanks, in part, to the gun lobby’s insurrectionist and anti-government messaging.

Members of another paramilitary group that went by the name of the Minutemen ambushed a Latinx family in their Arizona home in 2009, murdering a nine-year-old girl and her father and injuring her mother, on the false claim that the father was involved in the drug trade. As Senator White’s bill would hide the identities of Minutemen and immunize them for any criminal activity performed as a militia-member, it appears he is aware of the risk of such violence.

During a time when the FBI has declared domestic terrorism to be the biggest national security threat facing the United States, we call upon the Missouri legislature to reject this radical, dangerous, and unwarranted bill. 


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Bills in Motion

In the first few months of 2021, courageous state legislators have introduced bills to strengthen background check requirements, fund proven community violence intervention programs, improve domestic violence prohibitions, and enact or strengthen extreme risk protection order laws in 33 states and the District of Columbia. Meanwhile, the gun lobby continues to push its dangerous guns in schools and permitless carry bills in dozens of states. We’re committed to helping state legislatures enact laws that will make our communities safer and push back against gun lobby legislation that will bring more guns to more places.

Gun Safety Bills

  • BACKGROUND CHECKS: Texas HB 52 had a hearing 3/18. Rhode Island HB 5381 had a hearing 3/19. Illinois HB 3245 has a hearing 3/26 and Oregon HB 2543 has a hearing 3/30. Legislation to strengthen or enact background checks is pending in at least 22 states.
  • COMMUNITY VIOLENCE: Minnesota HB 784 passed a committee. Connecticut HB 6034 and HB 5677 each passed a committee and had a hearing 3/24. Florida SB 836 had a hearing 3/24. Illinois HB 2712, HB 2737, HB 3057, and HB 3072 each have a hearing 3/25. Currently, at least 16 states and the District of Columbia have bills pending that would allocate or protect funding for evidence-based violence prevention programs.
  • DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:Vermont HB 133 passed the house. California SB 320 passed two committees. Iowa HB 450, Missouri HB 473, and Nebraska LB 13 each passed a committee. Kansas HB 2251 and Illinois HB 54, HB 2541, and HB 3168 each have a hearing 3/26. Legislation to strengthen domestic violence laws is pending in at least 20 states and the District of Columbia.
  • EXTREME RISK PROTECTION ORDER: Illinois HB 3483 has a hearing on 3/26. Bills to enact or strengthen extreme risk protection order laws are pending in at least 20 states.

Gun Lobby Bills

  • GUNS IN SCHOOLS: Utah HB 216 was enacted 3/16. Arizona HB 2840 passed a senate committee. Arkansas SB 161 passed the senate and and a house committee, and HB 1327 passed the house and a senate committee. Idaho HB 122, Oklahoma HB 2588 and HB 2645 and North Carolina HB 134 each passed the house. Missouri HB 86, South Carolina HB 3096, and West Virginia HB 2364 each passed a committee. Rhode Island HB 5395 had a hearing 3/19. Illinois HB 1758  and HB 2883 each have a hearing 3/26. Texas HB 1788 had a hearing 3/24.  Montana HB 572 has a hearing 3/29. Dangerous bills to allow guns in school or on campus are pending in at least 29 states. 
  • PERMITLESS CARRY: Iowa HB 756 was sent to the governor. Tennessee SB 765 passed the senate, HB 18 passed a committee, and HB 786 passed two committees and has a hearing 3/23. Nebraska LB 236 and South Carolina HB 3096 each passed a committee. Rhode Island HB 5972 had a hearing 3/19. There are reckless permitless carry bills pending in at least 15 states.
  • STAND YOUR GROUND: Utah HB 227 was enacted 3/16. South Dakota HB 1212 was enacted 3/22. Oklahoma HB 1662, SB 560, and SB 925 each passed their first chamber and SB 560 had a hearing 3/24. Tennessee HB 50 passed the senate and a house committee and SB 189 passed a committee. New Hampshire HB 196 passed a committee. Rhode Island SB 530 and SB 533 each have a hearing 3/25. There are Stand Your Ground laws pending in at least 16 states.


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.