Seeking Common Ground in Gun Policy Debates: A Gun Policy Comparison Tool

Seeking Common Ground in Gun Policy Debates

A Gun Policy Comparison Tool

Scientific research on the effects of gun policies is sparse and often inconclusive. This means that experts’ informed judgments about such effects are an especially important influence on gun policy decisions.

RAND surveyed experts with diverse views on how gun policies might affect outcomes, such as violent crime, suicide, and participation in hunting and sport shooting. This tool allows you to explore where these experts agree and disagree and what combinations of laws might offer the potential for compromise on all sides.

1. Toggle laws on or off in all states

Explore state and nationwide effects of gun policies, as predicted by policy experts, by turning laws "on" (enacting them in all states) or "off" (repealing them in states where they are currently in place). You'll see a comparison between experts who favor more-permissive policies for gun use and access and those who favor more-restrictive policies. The more laws you turn on or off, the more speculative the results will be.

    10-day waiting period to purchase a firearm

    This law imposes a waiting period of ten days between the purchase of a firearm and when the buyer can take possession of it. When estimating the effects of this law, experts were asked to assume that the state already has a universal background check requirement. Read our analysis of this type of policy »

    Ban on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines

    This law bans certain semi-automatic firearms with detachable magazines and other features, such as pistol grips, folding stocks, or the ability to mount a bayonet. The law also bans magazines that hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition. Owners of these weapons at the time the law is passed may keep them if each weapon is registered with a state authority. Read our analysis of this type of policy »

    Child-access prevention laws

    This law imposes criminal penalties on firearm owners when a child accesses a usable weapon that was stored in a location where the owner should have known a child could access it. Read our analysis of this type of policy »

    Child-access prevention media campaigns

    This policy educates the public about the benefits of safe storage through a media campaign. The campaign provides educational materials through news media and the Internet and to gun stores for display and distribution. Read our analysis of this type of policy »

    Elimination of gun-free zones

    Federal and some state laws prohibit carrying a firearm near schools and certain other public places. This policy allows firearms in these previously prohibited locations. When estimating the effects of this law, experts were asked to assume that federal and state laws change in a state that previously prohibited private citizens from carrying firearms into schools, universities, government buildings, and parks. Read our analysis of this type of policy »

    Expanded mental health prohibitions

    When a judge has committed someone to an inpatient mental institution or has found the person to be unable to manage his or her own affairs, federal law prohibits that person from having firearms. This law expands the mental health histories leading to prohibition to include people ordered to receive outpatient mental health treatment and those involuntarily confined because a mental health professional determined that they present a danger to themselves or others. Read our analysis of this type of policy »

    Firearm and ammunition taxes

    This policy imposes a special $25 tax on the sale of firearms and a 25% tax on the sale of ammunition. Read our analysis of this type of policy »

    Lost or stolen firearm reporting requirements

    Firearm owners must report lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement authorities within three days of discovering the loss. Penalties for failure to report include prohibition on firearm ownership for five years and civil liability if the firearm is used in a crime. Read our analysis of this type of policy »

    Minimum age requirements

    Federal law generally prohibits those younger than 18 from having a handgun, and licensed dealers are prohibited from selling handguns to anyone younger than 21. Those younger than 18 may have a long gun, but licensed dealers may not sell such guns to anyone younger than 18. The minimum age requirement policy raises the minimum age for purchase or possession of handguns and long guns to 21. Read our analysis of this type of policy »

    Permitless carry

    This policy allows anyone who is at least 21 years old and not prohibited by law from having a firearm to carry a concealed weapon in public without a permit. For the effect estimates, experts were asked to assume that, before adopting a permitless carry policy, the state required concealed-carry permits that were issued to those with good moral character and sufficient reason for a concealed firearm. Read our analysis of this type of policy »

    Requiring a license to purchase or possess firearms or ammunition

    This law requires a firearm license to purchase or possess a firearm or ammunition. These licenses require successful completion of a safety training course or safety test and a background check, and the licenses cost $100. They must be renewed every ten years. Read our analysis of this type of policy »

    Requiring firearm sales to be reported and recorded

    This law requires reporting all firearm sales to a government agency, including information on the firearms and who bought them. This applies to sales by both firearm dealers and private sellers. Law enforcement is permitted to retain the data indefinitely for two purposes: to trace firearms found at crime scenes and to retrieve firearms from individuals who become prohibited possessors. Read our analysis of this type of policy »

    Stand-your-ground laws

    This law permits a person to use deadly force without the duty to retreat when confronting a threat that could reasonably result in death or serious injury. Without this law, people outside their homes must try to withdraw from a serious threat, if possible, before using deadly force. Read our analysis of this type of policy »

    Surrender of firearms by prohibited possessors

    Under this law, when a judge's ruling places an individual in a class that is prohibited by law from possessing or purchasing a firearm, the judge must determine whether that individual has firearms and, if so, must order their surrender. Prohibited possessors include people convicted of a felony, those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, and those subject to a domestic violence protective order. Read our analysis of this type of policy »

    Universal background checks

    People who are prohibited by law from having firearms sometimes obtain them through private sales that do not require background checks. Universal background checks require background checks prior to all transfers of firearms, including private sales over the Internet, at gun shows, and between friends (temporary loans and gifts between family members are exempted). Background checks for private sales are conducted by a government agency or by a licensed gun dealer. Read our analysis of this type of policy »