Project 2: US Gun Policy Over Time

Welcome to the second installment of #PublicPolicyViz, the Tableau Community Project that seeks to pair data visualization experts with public sector entities to help tell their stories.

About the Project

For our second project, we will be utilizing the RAND Corporation’s State Firearm Law Database to identify trends in US gun policy over time.

The database provides a longitudinal view of firearm policy in the United States, including information detailing whether policies are restrictive/permissive, the general category that they fall under (e.g., background checks, concealed carry), and when/where they were passed. It also specifies whether policies pertain to handguns, long guns, or both—an important dimension that is often at the forefront of the gun policy debate.

There are a few key dates that you should know going into this project. They may be found below:

  • 1934—The National Firearms Act (NFA): The NFA was the first piece of firearm manufacture/transfer regulation imposed at the federal level.
  • 1938—The Federal Firearms Act (FFA): The FFA created a license requirement for manufacturers/distributors.
  • 1968—The Gun Control Act (GCA): The GCA overhauled the NFA/FFA. It added minimum ages for firearm purchasers, required that firearms have serial codes, and more.
  • 1986—The Firearms Owner’s Protection Act (FOPA): FOPA loosened many of the restrictions previously imposed by the GCA, legalized gun show sales by dealers in the same state, and prevented the federal government from developing a firearms dealer database.
  • 1993—The Brady Act: Brady amended the GCA, as well, by imposing a five-day waiting period that enabled law enforcement to conduct background checks ahead of a sale.
  • 1994—The Federal Assault Weapons Ban: The ban, which expired in 2004, prohibited the sale of high-capacity ammunition devices and the manufacture, sale, or possession of semi-automatic assault weapons.

The original dataset for this project comes from the RAND Corporation. That said, the #PublicPolicyViz team has provided links to a slightly modified dataset, which includes additional information that may be useful. Click here to navigate to the project’s GitHub page, and to download this week’s data files.


Please submit your project using this form. When publishing your submission to Tableau Public or tweeting about it on Twitter, make sure to use #PublicPolicyViz so we can boost your work!

The project goes live on 11/28/2022 and is expected to run until 12/31/2022.

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