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Methodology

Everytown keeps comprehensive surveys of the gun laws in all 50 states. We built the rankings on this site by analyzing the 50 most important policies in detail for each state. We assigned those laws four different values—from the highest point total for the most fundamental laws to the lowest point total for those with a less substantial impact. There are 100 possible points for any state system; California scores highest for 2022 with 84.5 points, while Mississippi scores lowest with 3 points. These are the four levels of importance for the policies included on the site, in descending order:

  • Level 1 (up to 6 points): Background check and/or purchase permit, Extreme Risk law, no Shoot First law (also called Stand Your Ground), concealed carry permit required
  • Level 2 (up to 3 points): Charleston Loophole closed or limited, secure storage required, high-capacity magazines prohibited, minimum age to purchase, no gun purchases after violent offense, authority to deny gun purchase for public safety, sales records sent to law enforcement, open carry regulated, assault weapons prohibited, gun removal program, violence intervention program funding
  • Level 3 (up to 1.5 points): Prohibition for convicted domestic abusers, prohibition for domestic abusers under restraining orders, relinquishment for convicted domestic abusers, relinquishment for domestic abusers under restraining orders, ghost guns regulated, no guns in K–12 schools, no guns mandate on college campuses, local gun laws allowed, school threat assessment teams, fugitive from justice prohibitor, emergency restraining order prohibitor, dealer license required, mental health record reporting, consumer safety, training required to purchase guns
  • Level 4 (up to .5 points): Office of Violence Intervention, felony prohibitor, mental health prohibitor, stalker prohibitor, waiting periods, lost and stolen reporting, no carry after violent offense, notification of failed background checks, crime gun tracing, no special immunity for gun industry, guns prohibited at state capitols and/or demonstrations, hate crime prohibitor, no guns in bars, microstamping for new handguns, funding for services for victims of gun violence, police use of deadly force standard, no law enforcement officers bill of rights, qualified immunity limited, police use of force incident data collection and reporting

For some policies, we’ve given states a higher point total for a stronger version of the policy—for example, states earn a higher score if they have not only required background checks on all gun sales, but also required a purchase permit; fully closed the Charleston loophole, rather than merely limiting it; or included gun prohibitions not just for abusive spouses but also for abusive boyfriends and other dating partners.

Everytown has placed these policies into tiers based on our own assessment of their impact. We recognize it can be difficult to compare the effect of different interventions directly; for example those that address gun access by domestic abusers are simply not comparable to those that seek to require gun manufacturers to install ballistic-fingerprinting tools. Further, researchers can more easily study the population-level impact of some policies, while others are more inherently difficult to measure—for example, those that target the industry. And while some of the laws covered here are difficult to evaluate because they have had a federal analogue in place nationwide for so long—such as the felony prohibitor, which has been law for nearly a century—others, such as consumer product safety rosters, are hard to measure because they are of such recent vintage. 

For another visualization of the correlation between gun laws and gun deaths, we built the scatterplot here. It reveals 50 states clustering closely around a line of best fit, showing a tight relationship between gun law inputs and gun violence outcomes. There is a strong ( r = –.68, p < .000), statistically significant relationship between gun laws and the gun death rate in a state: as gun laws increase in a state, gun deaths go down.

The “national leaders” group of states in our analysis has dramatically low death rates relative to the country (an average of 7.4 gun deaths per 100,000 residents), while the “national failures” group has strikingly high gun violence (an average of 20.0 gun deaths per 100,000 residents). Only a handful of states stand further apart from the norm, likely in large part due to factors we discuss on the site’s homepage—including relative law strength in neighboring and regional states, rates of gun ownership, and recency of gun law enactments or repeals.

Scatter chart representing the correlation between gun law strength and gun deaths per 100,000 residents for each of the 50 states

While all gun laws on the site are updated in real time—immediately following a new enactment—Everytown’s formal rankings are released once annually in January. All gun death data included here are 2020 figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER Online Database. Citations for all gun laws can also be found on the relevant policy pages. All state-level gun ownership data is from RAND’s database of household firearm ownership. The recommended form of citation for this website is Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. “Everytown Gun Law Rankings.” Retrieved [month day, year].

EveryStat

How does gun violence impact the communities you care about?

Every year, more than 40,000 Americans are killed with guns and approximately 85,000 more are shot and wounded. But what impact does gun violence have on your specific state? EveryStat helps users understand how gun violence impacts the communities they care about. Learn more about the breakdown of gun violence in your state.