State Firearm Law Navigator

Research on the effects of gun laws requires good data on when and where different types of laws have been implemented.

To support this type of research, RAND maintains a longitudinal database of state firearm laws, available free to the public. This database was first released in 2018 and has been revised, updated, and expanded since then. This visualization was updated in August 2022 to include data from the period 1979–January, 2021.

Although the full database includes 20 classes of gun laws and many subcategories of these classes, this visualization illustrates just four: background check, child-access prevention, concealed-carry, and self-defense laws.

How it works: Select the type of gun law from the dropdown menu. Move the slider to select a date from 1979 to January, 2021. Click on a state to see the text of specific laws that were in effect in a given year.

2021: 44% of states have laws

Use the slider to change the year.

Law Overview

Background checks for gun purchases are designed to prevent access to guns by convicted felons and other prohibited possessors. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1994 imposed federal requirements for background checks on sales by licensed dealers, but not for private sales or transfers of firearms. Some states have expanded this federal requirement by requiring background checks for private firearm sales and transfers.

Click on a state to view its laws.

Evidence for the Effects of Firearm Laws

Good information about where and when laws have been implemented is just one of the building blocks to understanding the effects of those laws on various outcomes.

As part of the Gun Policy in America initiative, RAND researchers conducted a systematic review of the evidence for the effects of 18 classes of gun laws.

For more about the known effects of the laws in this visualization, see the following:

Data and Methodology

To download the full database of laws, see the RAND State Firearm Law Database. For information about the laws not included in this visualization or the methods that RAND researchers used to construct the database, see the methods documentation.

If you see something that's missing or wrong, send us a message.

Design and development by Alyson Youngblood. Additional development by Greg Fauerbach.

Last updated Aug 22, 2022.