NATIONAL RELEASE: Despite Disruptions of State Legislatures in 2020, New Annual Gun Law Scorecard Reveals Progress; Opportunities for Biden Administration to Save Lives from Gun Violence
Black Americans are more likely to be killed with guns in all states, are at even greater risk in states with failing grades
Every year, Giffords Law Center’s Gun Law Scorecard grades and ranks the gun laws of all 50 states. Virginia was the success story of 2020, passing a robust suite of laws that raised its grade from a D to a B.
Washington, DC — The Annual Gun Law Scorecard released by Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence clearly illustrates the urgent need for action from the Biden administration. This year’s Scorecard highlights the disproportionate toll that both COVID-19 and gun violence take on Black communities across the United States. Black Americans in F states have a gun death rate 117% higher than the national gun death rate for all Americans. The health and safety crisis of gun violence must be addressed alongside the epidemic of COVID-19.
A number of state legislatures planned to pass ambitious gun safety legislation in 2020, including bills that would protect Americans from ghost guns and strengthen domestic violence laws. Due to the onset of COVID-19, progress on most gun safety priorities ground to a halt as sessions ended early. Despite these challenges, a number of states still took decisive action to save lives from gun violence. In Virginia, lawmakers passed a package of critical bills that included laws to strengthen background checks and child access prevention policies. New Mexico also raised its grade after lawmakers enacted an extreme risk protection order law, which enables courts to temporarily remove guns from individuals proven to pose a threat to themselves or others.
“Looking back on an undoubtedly difficult year, we still saw examples of courageous lawmakers displaying leadership as the country reckoned with the trauma of surging gun violence—including high-profile incidents of police violence—in the midst of a pandemic,”said Robyn Thomas, executive director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “States like Virginia are taking action to save countless lives from shootings but this progress must extend to states across the nation. An inconsistent patchwork of state gun laws puts all Americans, especially Black Americans, at higher risk of gun homicide. We hope the Gun Law Scorecard will continue to serve as a resource for our elected officials who understand that getting a passing grade can be a matter of life and death.”
In 2020, states passed 43 significant gun safety laws in 13 states, bringing the total laws passed since the tragedy in Parkland in February 2018 to 180. Last year, the Gun Law Scorecard revealed that between 2012 and 2019, the number of Americans living in states with A grades increased by more than 45 million, while the number of Americans living in states with D and F grades declined. In 2019, for the first time in the history of the Gun Law Scorecard, more Americans lived in A states (98.7 million) than F states (94.7 million.)
Changes in two states were significant enough to raise their grades in 2020:
- Virginia (D to a B): Passed a comprehensive package of bills that included laws to close the private sale background check loophole, temporarily take guns away from people at risk of dangerous behaviors, prevent access to guns by minors, and fund evidence-based violence intervention programs.
- New Mexico (C to a C+) Enacted an extreme risk protection order law.
States with the strongest gun laws have taken significant steps to protect their residents from gun violence, such as closing loopholes in the federal background checks system, investing in community violence intervention and prevention, and prohibiting unregulated and untraceable firearms, also known as ghost guns. These states include:
- California (A)
- New Jersey (A)
- New York (A-)
- Maryland (A-)
States with the lowest grades are responsible for the troubling export of guns used for crimes in other states along with pushing dangerous policies like expanding the places concealed carry permit holders can bring their guns. Some of the worst include:
- Texas (F)
- Louisiana (F)
- Alabama (F)
- West Virginia (F)
2020 Gun Law Scorecard Spotlight: Guns & COVID-19
The 2020 Annual Gun Law Scorecard also highlights the disproportionate impact that both COVID-19 and gun violence have on Black Americans. Both crises were badly mismanaged by the Trump administration, leaving our most vulnerable communities unprotected from two epidemics. The movement for racial justice that swept the country in 2020 after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor brought renewed attention to the critical links between policing and gun violence. To end vicious cycles of gun violence, we must address police brutality and harmful practices that fuel mass incarceration and retaliatory violence.
Black Americans have a significantly higher gun death rate than Americans in all states. In fact, Black Americans are 10 times more likely than white Americans to be murdered with a gun. In the face of the ongoing public health crisis of COVID-19, spikes in gun violence have continued despite shelter-in-place orders, particularly in the communities most vulnerable to the virus’s spread, related economic harms, and devastating budget cuts in states and cities across the nation.
The facts are undeniable:
- 134 out of 100,000 Black americans die of COVID-19 while 83 out of 100,000 white americans die of COVID-19
- 23 out of 100,000 Black americans die of gun violence while 12 out of 100,000 white americans die of gun violence
Until we pass strong federal gun safety laws, the lifesaving strides made by states like Virginia and New Mexico will continue to be jeopardized by neighboring states with weak gun laws, leaving all Americans at greater risk of gun violence. States and the federal government must take action to ensure a safer America for all.
Visit the Annual Gun Law Scorecard at gunlawscorecard.org.