Center for American Progress

RELEASE: State Executives Have a Substantial Opportunity to Reduce Gun Violence Without Waiting for Legislatures to Act
Press Release

RELEASE: State Executives Have a Substantial Opportunity to Reduce Gun Violence Without Waiting for Legislatures to Act

A new Center for American Progress report offers 28 ideas for how state executives can take action to fight gun violence in their states

Washington, D.C. — With each successive mass shooting we have experienced in recent months, the public drumbeat for meaningful action to address gun violence in our communities grows louder, while policymakers in Washington, D.C., have declined to pass any legislation in recent years to address this epidemic. However, effective actions to curb gun violence are not exclusive to the federal government—nor do they require new legislation. A new report released today by the Center for American Progress offers 28 policy options for governors, attorneys general, and other state executives that can be implemented now—without turning to their legislatures—that will have a real, meaningful effect on reducing gun deaths in their respective state.

Following a yearlong investigation of best practices used across the country, the 50-page CAP report provides a comprehensive look at many of the ways state executives can implement smart, common-sense improvements to existing gun laws; better enforce the laws already on the books; enhance oversight of the gun industry; better engage the community; and collect the data needed to assess the unique character and effect of gun violence in the state. This report comes on the heels of announcements to use executive authority to address gun violence by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in October and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) just last week.

“With more than 30,000 people killed with guns each year in this country, gun violence can easily be called a national crisis,” said Chelsea Parsons, CAP Vice President for Guns and Crime Policy and co-author of the report. “But this does not mean that the only solutions can be found at the federal level. State executives—such as governors, attorneys general, and leaders in public health and law enforcement—have an array of potential remedies already within their power to implement. Strengthening background checks, better enforcing current laws, and making sure the gun industry is operating within the rules will all have immediate and meaningful effect on gun violence. Not every recommendation in this report will work for every state—but many will. While federal and state legislatures buckle to pressures from the gun lobby, state executives can take much needed action.”

“The recent string of horrific mass shootings across our country in just the past few months—including the on-air murder of Alison Parker and Adam Ward in my home state this August—has brought into sharp focus the urgent need to take real action to reduce gun violence,” said Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who issued an executive order in October 2015 with six actions to help keep guns out of dangerous hands by better enforcing existing Virginia law. “We can’t wait for recalcitrant legislatures to finally pass common-sense legislation to strengthen gun laws that are supported by a vast majority of Americans. I am proud of the actions my administration has taken to confront gun violence in our state, and I look forward to working with state executives across the country to develop new ways to use our existing authority to keep our communities safe.”

“It’s become almost routine to watch so many families across the nation hold their breath, hoping—and praying—that loved ones come home. It needs to end. It’s not that we are powerless—it’s that we just need to use our common sense,” said Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who championed a comprehensive approach to reducing gun violence in Connecticut. “We have the smartest gun law in the nation in Connecticut because we stood up to do the right thing. This is an issue of national importance, and one that demands attention at every level of government. In Connecticut, we have approached this problem comprehensively at the state level, and we all should use every available opportunity to reduce gun violence and save lives. All of us need to seize this moment to act.”

“In the past three years, states have taken the lead in enacting strong new laws to prevent gun violence and save lives,” said Tim Daly, CAP Director, Campaigns for Guns and Crime Policy. “While Congress continues its maddening pattern of inaction on this issue, progress to reduce gun violence will continue to be driven by the states, and this report offers an additional tool for state leaders to use in this work.”

The report provides a comprehensive set of options for state-level executive action that considers promising programs and policies being implemented across the country and offers new ideas for how state leaders can address this urgent public health problem. The report makes 28 recommendations in six policy categories that state executives can choose from in order to better protect their citizens from gun violence. Those categories include:

  • Five ideas for strengthening background checks, including pre-validating all domestic violence prohibiting records for the background check system
  • Eight ideas for better enforcement of current laws, including investigating all cases where a prohibited purchaser illegally attempts to buy a gun
  • Five ideas for improving gun violence data collection and analysis, including requiring all law enforcement agencies in the state to trace all crime guns
  • Two ideas for engaging the community, including implementing community-based programs to prevent violence
  • Three ideas for enhanced oversight of gun carrying, including conducting an annual review of concealed-carry reciprocity agreements with other states
  • Five ideas for stronger oversight of the gun industry, including creating a grading system for gun dealers to incentivize adoption of best practices

While there is no doubt that action at the federal level is sorely needed, that should not preclude the states from taking their own action to prevent gun violence right now. In fact, many states have already begun to implement some of the policies recommended in the report with great success. With more states taking action, it will be even more difficult for policymakers in Washington, D.C., to continue to avoid addressing the current gun violence epidemic affecting communities across the country.

Click here to read the report.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at [email protected] or 202.481.7141.