Gun control advocates say yes. Gun rights folks beg to differ.
Big surprise on that one.
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, an advocacy group pushing for tougher regulations, assigned every state a grade based on 29 different policy approaches to regulating firearms and ammunition. California topped the list with an A-. New York, which now requires background checks for ammunition sales, has since surpassed it in the toughness of its gun laws. It's the first state to enact such legislation following the Newtown shooting. And efforts in a handful of other states -- including California and Colorado -- to strengthen gun laws are already underway.
The Center points to 2010 statistics showing that seven out of 10 states with the strictest regulations also had that lowest gun homicide rates.
But gun rights advocates opposed to tighter regulations argue that this correlation is inconclusive and misleading. They commonly counter that stricter regulations don't do anything to prevent criminals from getting ahold of guns - they simply prevent law abiding citizens from being able to protect themselves. Many also point to states like Maine, which has some of the loosest regulations in the country (it received an F grade by gun control groups, but also has among the lowest gun homicide rates in the country). On the contrary, they argue, the strict gun laws in cities like Chicago and Washington D.C. have failed to prevent those rising homicide rates in those places.
"The gun laws in Chicago only restrict the law-abiding citizens and they've essentially made the citizens prey," Richard A. Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association told the NY Times.
California vs. South Dakota: the toughest and loosest gun laws
Despite its relatively low rate of gun homicides, South Dakota got smacked with an F grade by the Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which identified it as the state with the nation's weakest gun laws. Here's how the two states compare:.
California: toughest gun laws
South Dakota: loosest gun laws
99 ways states have loosened gun laws
Mother Jones magazine tracked 99 state laws passed since 2009 that have made guns easier to own and carry in public, and harder for the government to track. According to the report, these laws were pushed through by the National Rifle Association and allies in state capitols. More than two-thirds of them were passed by Republican-controlled legislatures, though often with bipartisan support.
Mother Jones highlighted some of the more striking laws it came across:
- Bullets and booze: In Missouri, law-abiding citizens can carry a gun while intoxicated and even fire it if "acting in self-defense."
- Child-safety lock off: In Kansas, permit holders can carry concealed weapons inside K-12 schools and at school-sponsored activities.
- Short arm of the law: In Utah, a person under felony indictment can buy a gun, and a person charged with a violent crime may be able to retain a concealed weapon permit. Nebraskans who've pled guilty to a violent crime can get a permit to carry a gun.
- Sweet Jesus! In Louisiana, permit holders can carry concealed weapons inside houses of worship.
- Without a trace: Virginia not only repealed a law requiring handgun vendors to submit sales records, but the state also ordered the destruction of all such previous records.
The big players in the debate
| Gun rights groups