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Virginia Receives a “D” for Gun Safety Laws

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Image courtesy lawcenter.giffords.org/scorecard Image courtesy lawcenter.giffords.org/scorecard

02/08/2019 Release from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence:

Washington DC — Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence released the latest edition of its Annual Gun Law Scorecard, which grades and ranks each state on its gun laws, and found that Virginia received a “D.” This comprehensive, 50-state analysis clearly shows fewer people die from gun violence in states with strong gun laws. In response to rising rates of gun violence in America, public demands for action intensified last year and as a result, many states passed gun safety measures, which improved their scores—some for the first time since Giffords Law Center began conducting this analysis in 2010.

Virginia did not enact any significant new gun laws in 2018. Though the state’s gun laws could be much stronger, Virginia does regulate gun shows and require employees of federally licensed firearms dealers to undergo background checks. To strengthen its D grade, Virginia should pass universal background checks, require the reporting of lost or stolen firearms, and enact an extreme risk protection order law.

  • Website: Learn more about Virginia’s ranking by visiting this year’s Scorecard.
  • Factsheet: Read more about how gun violence impacts Virginia.

“America’s devastating gun violence epidemic is growing and impacting every part of our country because too many lawmakers would rather wish it away than acknowledge their role in advancing solutions to make our communities safer,” said Robyn Thomas, executive director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “This public safety threat needs to be addressed with facts, evidence, and action. We’ve proven that lawmakers can save lives, reduce violence, and make their states safer by following a simple blueprint: pass gun violence prevention laws. Every year, our scorecard is a reminder to states that progress is possible, but also a reminder of the work we have left to accomplish. The Gun Law Scorecard should be both a resource and roadmap for elected leaders, activists, and concerned citizens to take action.”

In 2017, 109 people died each day from gun violence, resulting in almost 40,000 total gun deaths. This represents the third straight year of rising gun deaths. The Annual Gun Law Scorecard highlights the opportunity states have to reverse these numbers. Strengthening background checks, implementing child access prevention laws, passing extreme risk protection order laws, and banning military style-weapons are all policies that can reverse the growing gun death rate.

Of the 10 states with the lowest gun death rates, seven have some of the strongest gun laws in the country, receiving a B+ or better on this year’s Gun Law Scorecard. All seven states have passed private-sale background checks on some or all gun sales.

  • Hawaii (A-)
  • Massachusetts (A-)
  • New York (A-)
  • Rhode Island (B+)
  • Connecticut (A-)
  • New Jersey (A)
  • California (A)

Of the 10 states with the highest gun death rates, all received F grades on this year’s Scorecard. Despite powerful data demonstrating the correlation between gun law strength and gun death rates, several states have ignored public cries for action and done little or nothing to strengthen their gun laws in recent years.

  • Alaska (F)
  • Alabama (F)
  • Montana (F)
  • Louisiana (F)
  • Mississippi (F)
  • Missouri (F)
  • Arkansas (F)
  • Wyoming (F)
  • West Virginia (F)
  • New Mexico (F)

Background checks critical to improving more scores
Since the Annual Gun Law Scorecard was created one of the key findings has been that to raise their grade and save lives, all states should enact universal background checks, closing the dangerous loophole in federal gun laws that allows individuals to obtain firearms at gun shows and on the internet without a background check. Twenty states and Washington DC have so far extended the background check requirement beyond federal law. Instituting universal background checks at the federal level would help keep guns out of the wrong hands by improving the patchwork of state laws that currently leaves states with universal background checks vulnerable to ineffective implementation and trafficking. If they enacted universal background checks, 28 states would see their grades jump at least one full letter grade, though some would increase two.

Activists are leading the charge to beat back dangerous gun lobby bills
This year’s Gun Law Scorecard also highlights how successful efforts by gun violence prevention advocates to thwart gun lobby–backed bills allowed many states to keep their high grades. This year is the first time since 2012 that no state lost points for either of the two biggest gun lobby priorities—guns on campus and permitless carry. No states saw their score downgraded by an entire letter grade. This is further proof that the gun lobby is losing its influence over state houses across America as voters and advocates stand up to gun lobby-backed legislation intended to weaken gun laws. In 2018, advocates were successful in helping defeat dozens of dangerous gun lobby-backed bills in more than half of the states, including stopping permitless carry bills and halting the attempted enactment of measures to allow guns on college campuses, universities, and K–12 schools.

Visit the Annual Gun Law Scorecard at gunlawscorecard.org.