Connecticut, where an elementary-school shooting left 20 children and six educators dead last December, now has the nation’s second-strongest firearms laws, up from fourth a year ago, according to a scorecard to be released today by two gun-control groups.
California, which passed 10 gun laws this year, remained atop the list as it has since 2010, the first year of the scorecard started by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco. This year, for the first time, the group released the data with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, which has done a separate list since 2007.
“We’ve had an unprecedented number of states pass major gun reform this year,” said Brian Malte, director of legislation and mobilization at the Brady Campaign. “We’re very happy about that, we think that sends a major message to Congress.”
The scorecard reveals a polarization since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, with states that had strong laws before the massacre tightening them, while states lower on the ranking increased access to firearms. Last year’s Dec. 14 shooting unleashed the first concerted national push for stronger gun laws in 20 years. Advocates fell short on the federal level, where they couldn’t gather enough votes in the Senate to pass a background-check law supported by President Barack Obama.
They fared better in legislatures, where eight states passed major overhauls to gun laws, according to the Law Center. Six already were ranked in the top 10 strongest gun laws last year.
“It is a healthy competition for states to be vying for the strongest gun laws in the country,” said Malte.
States where legislatures approved wide-ranging restrictions on purchases moved up in the rankings, including Maryland and New York, which are now fourth and fifth. Connecticut moved up after approving a package that expanded background checks, prohibited military-style firearms and limited magazine sizes.
New Jersey slid from second to third, with Republican Governor Chris Christie’s vetoes of legislation, including a measure that would have required background checks for private firearms sales.
Gun-rights advocates backed by the National Rifle Association, the country’s largest such group, also had successes in legislatures, and last year the places with the weakest restrictions moved to further loosen their rules.
Arizona became the state with the weakest firearms restrictions after passing a law that prohibits keeping records of purchases and one preventing law-enforcement agencies from destroying guns acquired in buy-back programs.
Seven states approved laws that allow staff members, or in some places citizens, to carry firearms in elementary schools, according to the Law Center.