Marysville School Shooting Highlights Importance of Universal Background Checks Ballot Initiative in Washington State

Posted on Friday, October 24th, 2014

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Today’s tragic shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School elicits the sadness and outrage that every story of gun violence at our schools does. And it’s magnified by the horrific fact that school shootings have become so common in America, with 87 since Newtown alone.

While it is not yet known how the Marysville shooter obtained the handgun used to attack his fellow students, the incident raises the important question of how access to firearms is regulated in the United States. After Newtown, Congress failed to pass a universal background checks bill, and the gun violence prevention movement shifted its focus to enacting smart gun laws at the state level.

In Washington State, where Marysville-Pilchuck High School is located, two competing initiatives are on the ballot this November that deal with background checks. One initiative, I-594, requires private sellers to conduct background checks on private purchasers of firearms. The Law Center is proud to have offered guidance to the group that drafted the bill, the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, by providing them with our model law and sharing research and legal analysis.

If passed, Washington’s new law (I-594) will:

  • Require unlicensed sellers to conduct a sale through a licensed firearms dealer who will perform a background check on the buyer
  • Ensure that a licensed dealer keeps a record of the private transaction

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Domestic Violence and Guns: State by State

Posted on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

VAWA-DV

American women are particularly vulnerable to certain forms of gun violence, including homicides by domestic abusers and stalkers. More than two-thirds of those murdered by their spouses between 1980 and 2008 were killed with guns. Moreover, abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm. These statistics represent real people whose lives could have been saved if their abusers didn’t have access to guns.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has partnered with the Center for American Progress to develop 50 fact sheets—one for each state—summarizing current laws on domestic violence and guns and offering straightforward, real-world solutions for how smart gun laws can better protect women.

Download the Domestic Violence and Guns fact sheets to see how your state measures up.

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Sighting the Homemade Gun Threat

Posted on Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

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Last week, Law Center Executive Director Robyn Thomas and Michael McLively, one of our staff attorneys, published an article, “Sighting the Homemade Gun Threat” in the Daily Journal. Outlining two potential gun laws, Senate Bill 199 and Senate Bill 808, which Governor Brown signed and vetoed respectively, the article discusses the dangers of homemade guns and the impending threat of 3-D printed guns as they gain popularity. Originally published in both print and online, here is the article shared in full.

Sighting the Homemade Gun Threat

Gov. Jerry Brown made headlines last week by signing Assembly Bill 1014, a bill that will establish an innovative “Gun Violence Restraining Order” procedure in California. On the same day, two lesser-known bills, Senate Bill 199 and Senate Bill 808, were signed and vetoed by the governor, respectively, without generating much notice. Despite their relatively low profile, these bills deserve our attention as they provide interesting insights into some of the  critical gun issues we’ll be facing in California looking forward.

The Serious Danger of Homemade Guns

Last Tuesday, Brown vetoed SB 808, which was an initial attempt to regulate the serious threat posed by homemade firearms. The bill would have required all such guns to be registered with the California Department of Justice and given a serial number.

This would have been a small step in the right direction by giving state authorities a better idea of just how many homemade guns are out there, but much more needs to be done in order to effectively nip this growing menace in the bud. Brown’s veto of this bill provides an opportunity to revisit this issue afresh and to reconsider the best way to properly address this problem in 2015, before it is too late.

Homemade firearms come from two main sources: the assembly of what are known as “partial receivers,” and 3D printing. Each presents its own set of unique problems and concerns.

Partial Receivers

A partial receiver is a partially finished metal component that holds the basic mechanisms that allow a gun to operate. Partial receivers are not regulated federally or at the state level. They can be purchased without a background check and turned into a fully functioning firearm with a relatively cheap and simple mechanical process that takes only one to seven hours to complete.

Partial receivers provide a way for mass-murderers and other criminals to skirt California’s otherwise strong gun laws, including mandatory background checks and the state’s prohibition on assault weapons. Using a partial receiver allows a person to build a functional assault rifle in a matter of hours. A recent and devastating shooting in Santa Monica highlights this danger all too well. John Zawahri failed a gun-purchase background check before deciding to buy an unfinished receiver and assembling his own assault rifle, which he then used in a terrible attack that left five dead, including Zawahri.

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Law Center and Americans for Responsible Solutions Release Second Commonsense Solutions Toolkit on Guns and Domestic Violence

Posted on Thursday, October 9th, 2014

 

One of the most overlooked aspects of the gun debate in America is the deadly connection between guns and domestic violence. As part of our ongoing partnership with Americans for Responsible Solutions, the Law Center has developed Commonsense Solutions: State Laws to Address Gun Violence Against Women. This toolkit for legislators and advocates both documents existing laws on guns and domestic violence and offers suggestions for commonsense gun laws to better protect victims of domestic violence.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and we strongly believe that by implementing smart gun laws, we can reduce the number of domestic violence incidents that end in firearm-related deaths or injuries. While men and children can also be victims of domestic violence, women are particularly at risk.

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With Increasing Number of Court Victories, 2014 Shaping Into Big Year for Gun Sense in the Courts

Posted on Monday, September 29th, 2014

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Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge John Darrah handed the gun sense movement yet another legal victory by upholding a local ordinance that prohibits military-style assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines (“LCMs”) in the city of Highland Park, Illinois. The decision is the most recent in a growing string of cases unanimously finding that prohibitions on assault weapons and LCMs do not infringe on the Second Amendment1.

Plaintiffs in the case, Friedman v. City of Highland Park, tried unsuccessfully to argue that the ordinance violated Second Amendment rights, but after carefully weighing the evidence from both sides, Judge Darrah firmly disagreed. “The record is clear,” he wrote, “that the features of the prohibited firearms, including LCMs, derive from military weapons with a decidedly offensive purpose of quickly acquiring multiple targets and firing at those targets without a frequent need to reload.” In light of their deadly nature, the judge concluded that prohibiting assault weapons and LCMs is a reasonable way to protect public safety without unconstitutionally burdening self-defense rights.

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  1. See, Heller v. District of Columbia, 670 F. 3d 1244, 1260-64 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (upholding the District of Columbia’s ban on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines after applying intermediate scrutiny); N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Cuomo, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 182307 (W.D.N.Y. Dec. 31, 2013) (upholding New York’s assault weapon and large capacity ammunition magazine ban under the same standard); Kampfer v. Cuomo, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1479 (N.D.N.Y Jan. 7, 2014) (upholding New York’s assault weapons ban by finding it does not substantially burden Second Amendment rights); Colo. Outfitters Ass’n v. Hickenlooper, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87021 (D. Colo. June 26, 2014) (upholding Colorado’s ban on large capacity ammunition magazines); Kolbe v. O’Malley, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 110976 (D. Md. Aug. 12, 2014) (upholding Maryland’s ban on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines). []

The Law Center Community Remembers Long-Time Board Member and Friend, Dick Odgers

Posted on Monday, September 22nd, 2014
LCAV 19th Anniversary Dinner

The Law Center’s Legal Director Julie Leftwich presented Dick Odgers with his firm’s Pro Bono Award at our 19th Anniversary Dinner.

The Law Center community is deeply saddened by the passing of one of our most beloved founders and friends, Dick Odgers. Dick was a founder, a supporter, an insightful and generous friend, and a deliberate and thoughtful voice in any situation. We know this organization wouldn’t be where we are today without him.

Following the mass shooting in San Francisco in 1993 that led to the formation of the Law Center (then Legal Community Against Violence), Dick joined the effort as a member of the Steering Committee in 1994. He went on to serve as the third Chair of the Steering Committee in 1998, became the first Board President in 1999, and stayed on as an active board member for a total of 16 years.

He will be remembered as a model of grace and strength and for those who knew him, a person they aspired to emulate. Many members of our board of directors and staff expressed their sorrow at his passing and their gratitude for having known him.

“He was by far one of the best people that I have ever known.”

~ Robyn Thomas
Law Center Executive Director

 *****

“I will greatly miss Dick’s brilliant legal mind, wry sense of humor, and gentle spirit.  It was an honor to have known him and worked with him for so many years.”

~ Julie Leftwich
Law Center Legal Director

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Arizona Firing Range Tragedy: The Law Center Calls for a Common Sense Approach to Children and Guns

Posted on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

By now, you have probably heard the news. Last week, a 9-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed her shooting instructor while firing an Uzi at the Last Stop shooting range in White Hills, Arizona. In the public outcry that followed, the Law Center received many requests from the media about how a tragedy like this could even occur. Sadly, this was not an isolated incident. In 2008, a similar shooting occurred in Massachusetts when an 8-year-old boy lost his life while handling an Uzi at a gun show. 

The unfortunate reality is very few states have laws on the books prohibiting child access to powerful automatic weapons. These horrific incidents highlight the need for stronger laws that restrict easy access to firearms by children and cut down on accidental shootings. The problem is real: between 1999 and 2010, more than 8,300 Americans were killed by accidental gun fire and roughly 25% of those deaths were young people under the age of 21. Each year in America, over 16,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for unintentional gunshot wounds.

Despite these sobering numbers, far too many states, like Arizona, do not have any laws in place to keep guns out of the hands of small children. When it comes to the strength of its laws to reduce gun violence, the Law Center gives Arizona an “F.” Unfortunately, 24 other states currently receive the same failing grade. To learn more about weak gun laws in Arizona, visit our Arizona State Law Summary. To learn more about your state’s gun laws, visit Gun Laws by State.

Watch this CNN story on the Arizona tragedy and join the Law Center in calling for common sense laws that keep deadly automatic weapons out of the hands of our children. To learn more about kids and guns, visit our Minimum Age to Purchase & Possess Firearms Policy Summary and our Child Access Prevention Policy Summary.

2014 California Firearms Legislation: Important Gun Safety Bills on the Governor’s Desk

Posted on Monday, September 1st, 2014

CA State Capitol Building

The Law Center is tracking numerous gun violence prevention measures that have made their way through the California Legislature this year.  The Law Center supports four bills that are currently on the Governor’s desk to improve public safety, including AB 1014, which would create a new “Gun Violence Restraining Order” procedure.  The Governor has already signed two gun safety bills into law and four bills introduced to weaken the state’s gun laws were defeated in the legislature earlier this year.

The complete text of all California bills can be found at http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.  For a full description of existing laws to reduce gun violence in California, visit our summary of California gun laws.

For more information on the status of bills in other states, visit our 2014 summary of gun bills nationwide.bills-signed-into-law

AB 1964 (Dickenson): Closing the “Single-Shot Exemption” Loophole –  California law requires that all semiautomatic handgun models sold in the state be certified as not unsafe by the Department of Justice after meeting certain required safety standards.  Prior law included an exception for so-called “single shot” pistols that could be temporarily modified to not fire on a semiautomatic basis in order to circumvent California’s safety standards.  AB 1964 closes that loophole by clarifying that the unsafe handgun law applies to semiautomatic pistols that have been temporarily or permanently altered so that they will not fire in a semiautomatic mode.

Law Center Position:  Support

Status: This bill was signed by the Governor on July 18, 2014.

AB 1591 (Archadjian):  Court Notifications – Under current law, courts are required to notify the California Department of Justice if they make a determination about a person’s mental state which would prohibit him or her from possessing a gun under California law.  AB 1591 will speed up this process by requiring such notifications to be made within one court day.

Law Center Position:  Support

Status: This bill was signed by the Governor on July 18, 2014.pending-legislation

AB 1014 (Skinner): Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) – This bill, which is modeled on California’s existing domestic violence restraining order laws, would establish a procedure to allow concerned family members or law enforcement officers to petition a court for a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO). In situations where there is sufficient evidence for a judge to believe that an individual poses a danger to self or others, the GVRO would temporarily limit the individual from purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition and would allow law enforcement to remove any firearms or ammunition already in his or her possession. To avoid the potential for abuse of this new procedure, the bill would create penalties for anyone who files a petition intending to harass the named individual or knowing that any of the information provided in the petition is false.

Law Center Position:  Support

Status:  This bill passed the California Legislature on August 29, and is now on the Governor’s desk.

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District Court Strikes Down Washington, D.C. Ban on Public Carrying of Handguns

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014

Overlooking-DC

For many years, the District of Columbia prohibited individuals from carrying handguns in public in order to protect District residents and visitors from gun violence. On July 26, 2014, however, a trial court judge interpreted the Second Amendment to allow individuals to carry guns outside of the home, and struck down the District’s policy. The judge’s ruling in the case, Palmer v. District of Columbia, allows residents and non-residents alike to carry handguns1. Fortunately,The ruling has been stayed for 90 days to allow the District to appeal the decision, or institute a licensing scheme that regulates the carrying of guns in public.

By far the most litigated Second Amendment issue since the Supreme Court’s controversial 2008 decision in Heller v. District of Columbia—which found that law-abiding, responsible individuals have a right to own an operable handgun for self-defense in the home—is whether the Second Amendment also protects a right to carry a firearm outside the home.2  As the Palmer court recognized, the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on this issue3, while a significant number of lower courts have concluded that the Second Amendment only protects the right to possess a gun for self-defense in the home. Nonetheless, since Heller, emboldened gun-lobby groups and individual plaintiffs have brought an onslaught of cases challenging laws that regulate a person’s ability to carry a gun outside of the home.

As of 2012, the only two jurisdictions prohibiting the practice of possessing guns outside the home were Washington, D.C. and Illinois. Illinois’ law was struck down in 2012 on Second Amendment grounds by the Seventh Circuit in Moore v. Madigan.4  The Moore court made clear, however, that laws regulating the possession of guns outside the home are permissible and the court suggested that regulations granting law enforcement discretion to issue concealed carry permits would be constitutional.

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  1. 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101945. The Palmer court held that the District cannot prohibit non-residents from carrying firearms in the District solely because they are not District residents. The court reasoned that non-residents also have a Second Amendment right to carry guns outside the home for self-defense. However, in Peterson v. Martinez, 707 F.3d 1197, 1202 (10th Cir. 2013), the Tenth Circuit upheld Colorado’s law limiting concealed carry permits to Colorado residents. The court found the residency requirement to be constitutional and substantially related to the important government interest of protecting public safety. And in Dearth v. Holder, 641 F.3d 499, 500-501 (D.C. Cir. 2011), the District of Columbia Circuit Court also upheld a federal law requiring a gun purchaser to be a U.S. resident. []
  2. 554 U.S. 570, 626 (2008). []
  3. Without Supreme Court precedent on this issue, the Palmer decision relied heavily on a radical and extreme 2-1 decision by the Ninth Circuit in Peruta v. County of San Diego, 742 F.3d 1144 (9th Cir. 2014). In Peruta, a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considered whether a person’s generalized desire to carry a gun in public for self-defense qualifies as “good cause” for the issuance of concealed carry permits. San Diego’s policy was not to issue concealed carry permits unless the applicant could demonstrate a particularized need beyond a generalized desire for self-defense. The divided panel held that San Diego’s application of the good cause requirement violated the Second Amendment. The State of California has sought to intervene in the case and requested en banc review from a full Ninth Circuit panel of judges, which may result in the overturning of the original decision. Additionally, the Palmer court based its decision on Moore v. Madigan 708 F.3d 901, 903 (7th Cir. Ill. 2013). []
  4. 708 F.3d 901, 903 (7th Cir. Ill. 2013). []

The Commonsense Gun Laws Partnership: A Collaboration Dedicated to Preventing Gun Violence

Posted on Friday, August 15th, 2014

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Earlier this year, we announced an exciting new partnership between the Law Center and Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), the organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, retired combat veteran and NASA astronaut Mark Kelly. Together, we are committed to bringing some sanity to our nation’s gun laws.

With our more than 20 years of research and knowledge on the nation’s gun laws, and the powerful grassroots network cultivated by Americans for Responsible Solutions, together we are producing tools that will empower lawmakers and community members to stop gun violence before it happens.

The Law Center and Americans for Responsible Solutions will assist legislators by creating a series of toolkits that will aid in developing solutions to protect communities from gun violence while ensuring that the legislation complies with the Second Amendment. The toolkits on each topic will provide:

  • Evidence of the particular gap in current laws that perpetuate gun violence;
  • Effective, tested solutions to close the loophole;
  • Policy rationale for action;
  • Legal basis for new laws; and
  • Most importantly – straight-forward features of the policies that will guide legislative drafting.

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