Gun Control Legislation: An Overview of Recent Changes in the United States


In the year 2023, various states in the United States have been actively implementing new gun control laws, specifically targeting firearms categorized as “assault weapons.” Many of these laws have faced legal challenges at both the state and federal levels. This article aims to provide a state-by-state breakdown of the most significant gun control bills that have been proposed and/or passed.

Washington State: Taking a Firm Stance

The Washington State Legislature, controlled by Democrats, has taken decisive action by enacting several influential gun control bills, all of which have been signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee. These include a comprehensive ban on the sale and purchase of “assault weapons,” the implementation of a 10-day waiting period for legal firearm purchases, and the adjustment of legal protections for gun sellers to be more susceptible to lawsuits. The ban on “assault weapons” is already being challenged in court, both at the federal and state levels.

Illinois: Tightening the Grip

In a lame duck session before the start of the 2023 regular legislative session, the Democratic-controlled Illinois legislature passed and Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law a far-reaching gun restriction measure. This measure prohibits the possession of over 170 semi-automatic handguns and rifles classified as “assault weapons,” as well as magazines that hold more than 15 rounds for handguns and 10 rounds for rifles. Several lawsuits filed by gun rights advocates have contested the constitutionality of this ban, with some jurisdictions ruling in favor of the ban while others have not. As the cases progress through the court systems, the ban remains in effect.

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Colorado: A Mosaic of Measures

During this legislative session, the Colorado General Assembly passed a series of gun restriction bills, demonstrating their commitment to firearms regulation. These measures include the adoption of a three-day waiting period for firearm purchases and an increase in the minimum purchase age to 21 years old. Furthermore, liability limits for gun manufacturers have been repealed, and the state’s extreme risk protection order law has been expanded. While the waiting period and purchase age bills have faced immediate legal challenges, the proposed ban on firearms categorized as “assault weapons” failed to advance out of a House committee after numerous individuals testified against it.

Maryland: Navigating New Policies

The Maryland Legislature has successfully passed several gun control bills that have been signed into law by Governor Wes Moore. One significant change removed the “good and substantial reason” requirement for concealed carry license justifications. Another bill further restricts individuals with concealed carry licenses from entering specific areas. The National Rifle Association has already filed a federal lawsuit against these measures.

Hawaii: Defining Sensitive Places

Hawaii’s Legislature introduced and passed a bill that makes it illegal to carry a concealed firearm in any location designated as a “sensitive place.” This policy mirrors a similar one previously enacted by the Honolulu City Council.

Maine: Debating the Balance

In Maine, several firearms bills have been introduced, sparking intense debates during their public hearings. One bill seeks to enforce criminal background checks for firearm sales, transfers, or exchanges. Another bill aims to prevent the transfer of firearms to individuals prohibited from owning them. Additionally, a 72-hour waiting period following a gun purchase has been under discussion. The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee has advanced several of these bills forward.

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Rhode Island: Seeking Stricter Measures

Approximately 30 gun-related bills have been introduced in Rhode Island, including a ban on firearms classified as “assault weapons” and the implementation of a 30-day waiting period per firearm. Another proposed bill mandates the submission of firearm information found at crime scenes to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Gun rights activists have warned of potential lawsuits should these bills pass.

Tennessee: Amid Tragedy and Legislative Delays

A bill was introduced in Tennessee with the intention of lowering the concealed carry permit age from 21 to 18 while expanding the definition of handguns to include all firearms. However, following a tragic shooting incident at Nashville’s Covenant School that resulted in the loss of six lives, progress on this bill came to a halt, along with other Second Amendment legislation in the state. Nevertheless, Governor Bill Lee has called for a special session on Second Amendment and public safety legislation beginning on August 21. The Firearms Policy Coalition has expressed opposition to this session and the proposed red flag law.

Pennsylvania: Embracing New Restrictions

The Pennsylvania House has moved forward with several measures aiming to impose new gun restrictions, marking a departure from years of limited changes. These measures include universal background checks, safe storage regulations, theft reporting requirements, and the introduction of a red flag law that allows for emergency legal hearings to disarm owners in crisis situations. Republicans have proposed amendments to these bills, discouraging false reports regarding a gun owner’s mental health and requiring federal authorities be notified in cases where buyers fail background checks due to immigration status. Ultimately, the House passed the “red flag” gun bill and a bill closing the so-called gun show loophole, while the theft reporting bill failed to gain approval.

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Virginia: A Battle of Legislative Proposals

Democratic lawmakers in Virginia have introduced several pieces of gun safety legislation, notably targeting the prohibition of carrying “assault weapons” in certain public places and banning the sale of unserialized gun parts. In contrast, some Republicans have sought to repeal existing state gun laws. The majority of gun laws proposed during this legislative session did not pass, with the exception of a tax credit for the purchase of firearm safety devices such as gun safes and lock boxes, which now provides a tax credit of up to $300.

New York: An Eye on Accountability

The New York State Senate and Assembly have introduced identical bills requiring the division of criminal justice services to establish and maintain a database containing information about the sale or use of microstamped guns in the state. Additionally, proposed legislation aims to establish a private cause of action for certain violations related to machine-guns, “assault weapons,” disguised guns, ghost guns, and unfinished frames or receivers. The inclusion of a private right of action clause would allow private plaintiffs to seek legal action based on public statutes.

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