During the 2021 legislative sessions, state legislatures across the country passed gun legislation and many of those laws will go into effect this month. 2020 was one of the deadliest years for gun violence on record and as the crisis continues into 2021, many state legislatures heeded the call for action to prevent gun violence and passed common-sense gun safety measures. Others doubled down on the gun lobby’s “guns-everywhere” agenda and passed bills to weaken gun laws that have been shown to lead to more gun deaths.
Several of those laws will go into effect this month. Here’s what to know:
Thanks to the tireless advocacy of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers, partner advocates, and gun sense lawmakers, states across the country passed evidence-based policies to reduce gun violence, including bills to strengthen background checks and close the Charleston loophole, reform policing in the state and create police accountability, require secure firearm storage, fund community-based violence intervention and prevention (VIP) programs, prohibit guns from sensitive locations like polling places, and more.
In other states, laws to dismantle life-saving public safety laws that have been shown to increase gun violence go into effect, including laws like Stand Your Ground, background check repeal and permitless carry which allows concealed carry without a permit or safety training. Moms Demand Action volunteers successfully blocked some of these dangerous bills in states like Georgia, Indiana, and Wyoming but in other states, lawmakers passed these bills despite research showing that they have increased gun violence elsewhere and in spite of vocal opposition from constituents and law enforcement. In several states, legislators even had to bend their legislative rules in order to pass these extreme policies.
Life-saving gun violence prevention bills that go into effect in July and what they do:
Colorado — Secure Firearm Storage
- July 1: Requires firearms that children or a prohibited person could access be securely stored, either with a locking device or inside a locked gun safe, when not in the control of the gun’s owner
What this means: Secure storage of firearms is key to reducing unintentional shootings and suicides by children and teens. This law will ensure a culture of shared responsibility for gun violence prevention and protect against unauthorized firearm access.
New Mexico — Repeal of Qualified Immunity
- July 1: Eliminates qualified immunity for state and local law enforcement
What this means: New Mexicans can now hold law enforcement accountable when their rights have been violated. Qualified immunity has been a huge institutional barrier to accountability for police misconduct and police violence, and New Mexico is the second state in the country to eliminate it.
Virginia — Bills to Strengthen Gun Safety Laws and Prevent Armed Intimidation
- July 1: Prohibits carrying of firearms at polling places
- July 1: Prohibits carrying of firearms at State Capitol & capitol grounds
- July 1: Ensures guns are not allowed at public schools
- July 1: Extending the timeline from 3 days to 5 days to proceed with a gun sale if a background check isn’t completed
What this means: Virginia residents who are participating in democratic processes at the State Capitol and polling places should not have to worry about armed extremists or others who carry firearms with the intent to intimidate. Keeping firearms out of these locations, as well as public schools, makes everyone safer.
Washington — Bills to Prevent Police Violence and Create Police Accountability
- July 25: Bans police use of chokeholds, no-knock warrants, and police acquisition of military equipment from the federal government
- July 25: Establishes the Office of Independent Investigations, along with a process for investigating police conduct that includes civilians
- July 25: Allows state-commissioned audits of deadly force investigations conducted by peace officers and law enforcement agencies.
- July 25: Expands the authority of the Criminal Justice Training Commission to include investigations of potential criminal conduct arising from police use of force, including custodial injuries and officer-involved incidents
- July 25: Requires data collection and analysis on police use of force incidents
What this means: This set of laws is historic for police reform in Washington. These are important steps to improving public safety, which should also help curb police violence, demilitarize the police, and improve oversight on law enforcement.
Gun bills to weaken public safety laws that go into effect in July and what they do:
Arkansas — Stand Your Ground and Laws to “Nullify” Federal Gun Laws
- July 30: “Stand Your Ground” law
- July 30: Two laws that attempt to nullify federal gun laws in the state. These laws will prohibit law enforcement and other public officials from helping enforce these nullified federal acts, even subjecting them to criminal penalties and decertification if they do so.
What this means: “Stand Your Ground” laws allow people to shoot others in public and avoid justice, even when the shooter can safely de-escalate the situation by walking away. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this law associated with increases in firearm homicides in other states.
Law enforcement will be limited in their ability to enforce federal gun safety laws, taking away critical tools they rely upon to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and abusers. It’s also unconstitutional.
Iowa — Background Check Repeal and Permitless Carry
- July 1: Repeal of state background check requirements for unlicensed handgun salesJuly 1: Permit no longer required in order to carry a concealed handgun in public.
What this means: Iowans are no longer required to obtain a permit to purchase a handgun, nor to carry a concealed handgun in public. Permits require a background check—so under the new law, unless someone purchases a handgun from a federally-licensed firearms dealer, they can buy a handgun without a background check.
This will make it easier than ever for people who shouldn’t have access to guns, like violent criminals and domestic abusers, to access them and to walk around with a loaded, concealed gun.
South Dakota — Expansion of Stand Your Ground
- July 1: Expansion of “Stand Your Ground” law
What this means: South Dakota’s already-dangerous “Stand Your Ground” law will get worse. It’s already legal for people to shoot to kill another person in public spaces (even if there are clear and safe ways to diffuse or walk away from the situation). Shooters are now afforded both broad criminal and civil immunity—making it even more difficult for true justice for survivors of gun violence and families of the victim.
Tennessee — Permitless Carry
- July 1: Strips permitting and training standards for carrying concealed guns in public, allowing people to carry a loaded firearm in public without a background check or any safety training.
What this means: Background checks, safety training, and permits are essential safety standards to carry concealed guns in public. Anyone, including extremists and white supremacists, can now carry a loaded firearm in public without requiring these critical safeguards to responsible gun ownership.
West Virginia — Bill to “Nullify” Federal Gun Laws
- July 9: Prohibits law enforcement, prosecutors, and other state officials from cooperating in the enforcement of federal gun safety laws
What this means: This limits state and local law enforcement’s ability to partner with their federal counterparts to enforce federal gun safety laws, including those aimed at combating gun trafficking and keeping guns out of the hands of people with dangerous histories.