Connecticut, where an elementary school shooting left 20 children and six educators dead almost a year ago, now has the nation’s second strongest gun laws, according to a scorecard comparing state gun laws that will be released later today by The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and The Brady Campaign.
California, which passed 10 new gun control laws this year, remained atop the list, as it has since the Law Center started its score card in 2010. This is the first year the San Francisco-based center teamed with the Washington-based Brady Center, which has compiled a separate list since 2007.
Other states where legislatures approved wide-ranging restrictions on gun purchases moved up in the rankings, including Maryland and New York, which are now in the fourth and fifth slots. Connecticut moved up after approving a package that expanded background checks, prohibited military style firearms and limiting magazine sizes.
“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.”
New Jersey slid from second to third-ranked in the toughest gun laws, with Gov. Chris Christie’s vetoes of legislation, including a measure that would have required background checks for private firearms sales.
Last year’s Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, launched the first 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 state legislatures, where eight passed major overhauls to their gun laws, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which tracks state gun laws. Six of those were states that already were ranked in the top ten strongest gun laws last year.
“It is a healthy competition for states to vying for the strongest gun laws in the country,” said Malte.
Gun rights advocates backed by the National Rifle Association also had successes in state 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 laws that prohibit keeping records of gun purchases and one preventing law enforcement agencies from destroying guns acquired via buy-back programs.
Seven states approved laws that allow staff – or in some places citizens – to carry firearms in elementary schools, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
The other states with the weakest rules are Alaska, Wyoming, South Dakota and Vermont, according to the new ranking.