20 states with the toughest gun laws

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Early in 2016, President Barack Obama sparked further debate on the gun control issue when he introduced a new set of executive orders aimed at reducing gun violence. Although the executive orders would bypass Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., stated the rules “will no doubt be challenged in the courts.”

Regardless, it’s clear the subject of gun control will remain at the forefront of American politics and the 2016 election. With that in mind, InsideGov decided to examine the current gun control measures in place, using data from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence ranks states by the relative overall strength or weakness of their gun laws, where higher scores — and therefore a higher grade — represent tougher gun laws. Laws that require background checks are weighted most heavily. Other considerations include dealer licensing, waiting periods and assault weapons bans. On each slide, we’ve visualized each state’s score compared to the national average, which was calculated by averaging each state’s score.

The states with the toughest laws also tend to vote Democratic more consistently. However, no state received a solid A grade, and 26 states received F’s. We’ve excluded those 26 states on this list, ranking the remaining states from lowest to highest grade.

Where does your state rank?

#20. Virginia

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Score: 22
Grade: D

Following the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, the state took greater measures to report mental health records and prohibit sales of firearms to any person who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective.”

#19. Ohio

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Score: 24
Grade: D

Ohio does not prohibit the sale of assault weapons nor limit the number of firearms that may be purchased at one time.

#18. Wisconsin

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Score: 25
Grade: D

In a major blow to gun control advocates, Republican Gov. Scott Walker repealed the state’s mandatory 48-hour waiting period for handgun purchases in 2015.

#17. Iowa

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Score: 29
Grade: C-

Iowa took steps to tighten gun control when it enacted child access prevention requirements upon gun owners.

#16. Colorado

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Score: 29.5
Grade: C-

While Colorado requires licensed firearms dealers to process background checks, it does not impose limits on the number of firearms that may be purchased at one time.

#15. Michigan

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Score: 30
Grade: C

Michigan gun control laws require firearm owners to report handgun purchases and theft of any firearm.

#14. Oregon

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Score: 31
Grade: C

Oregon greatly strengthened its firearm regulations in 2015 when it enacted laws requiring background checks for all firearm purchases.

#13. Pennsylvania

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Score: 35
Grade: C

Compared to other solidly Democratic states, Pennsylvania’s gun control laws are relatively lax, with no requirements for firearm owners to obtain licenses or register their weapons.

#12. Minnesota

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Score: 36.5
Grade: C

Although federally licensed firearms dealers must initiate background checks, Minnesota does not require private sellers to do so.

#11. Washington

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Score: 47.5
Grade: B-

Washington requires all firearm dealers to obtain a state license, but does not mandate that individuals register their weapons.

#10. Delaware

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Score: 50.5
Grade: B

Delaware has relatively strict gun control measures, including mandatory background checks and purchase restrictions on domestic violence misdemeanants.

#9. Rhode Island

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Score: 58.5
Grade: B+

Rhode Island may have comprehensive gun control measures overall, but it still does not prohibit the transfer or possession of assault weapons.

#8. Illinois

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Score: 60
Grade: B+

In addition to requiring background checks, Illinois has instituted some design safety standards for handguns.

#7. Hawaii

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Score: 73.5
Grade: B+

In 2014, Hawaii had the lowest number of firearm-related deaths per 100K people. Gun regulation advocates have attributed this to its tight gun control measures.

#6. New York

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Score: 81
Grade: A-

New York enacted major gun control reforms in 2013, including an expansion of the assault weapons ban and requirements for ammunition dealers to conduct background checks.

#5. Massachusetts

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Score: 81.5
Grade: A-

Following the New York reforms, Massachusetts passed a comprehensive gun control bill in 2014 that increased firearm regulations.

#4. Maryland

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Score: 82
Grade: A-

Among Maryland’s firearm regulations are a ban on the transfer of certain assault weapons and a mandatory seven-day waiting period prior to the physical transfer of a firearm.

#3. New Jersey

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Score: 86
Grade: A-

Republican Gov. Chris Christie may have shifted to the right on the issue of gun control, but his state still has some of the tightest firearm regulations in the country.

#2. Connecticut

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Score: 86.5
Grade: A-

Connecticut’s extensive gun control laws require firearms dealers to obtain a license and mandate background checks for all firearm sales at gun shows.

#1. California

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Score: 93.5
Grade: A-

California takes the top spot as the state with the strictest gun control measures. Among the regulations in place are required background checks and limitations on the number of handguns an individual can purchase each month.

Gun Control Overview

The map below shows how each state ranks in terms of firearm regulations. Generally speaking, states that vote Republican tend to have less regulation on guns.

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