Today, Nebraska took steps to protect its communities from gun violence, scoring an early victory for smart gun laws at the state level. We’re proud to announce that lawmakers there stopped progress on a bill that attempts to eliminate cities’ ability to regulate for public safety by enacting their own municipal gun safety regulations.
The bill, LB 289, which would have preempted lifesaving local laws like ones that keep guns out of the hands of juvenile gang members, the dangerously mentally ill or away from domestic violence shelters.
We’re proud to have provided legal analysis and support to activists on the ground in Nebraska. Today’s news is a critical win for Nebraska–the state scores a D on our Gun Law State Scorecard, and we’re thrilled to see that lawmakers are taking a stand against the gun lobby’s deadly agenda.
Today, we stood with President Barack Obama as he issued a series of executive actions to curb the 117,000 shootings that take place every year in the United States. Our executive director, Robyn Thomas, joined gun violence prevention activists, survivors, and lawmakers at the White House for this remarkable announcement, and we’re thrilled to have been able to provide our unparalleled expertise on firearms laws and the Second Amendment to the administration to help enable this powerful action.
This announcement builds on the unprecedented momentum for smart gun laws in recent years, with 125 lifesaving laws passed in 41 states since the tragedy at Sandy Hook, and should serve as a rallying cry for more state and federal lawmakers to do everything they can to eliminate the uniquely American epidemic of gun violence.
The president said, “The United States of America is not the only country on Earth with violent or dangerous people. We are not inherently more prone to violence. But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency.”
This executive action will make Americans safer by directly addressing gun violence and improving procedures in four key areas:
Expanding and improving background checks—By clarifying what it means to be “engaged in the business” of selling guns, the administration will narrow the loophole that allows many private sales of firearms to occur without a background check. The President will also order improvements to the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System (NICS) to make the system more accurate, up-to-date, and efficient.
Making communities safer from gun violence—The White House announced that the administration will request additional resources for ATF, require reporting of lost and stolen firearms, and expand domestic violence outreach efforts.
Increase mental health treatment and record reporting—The President has outlined improvements to the mental health care system that will increase access to treatment and encourage betterreporting of relevant records to NICS.
Gun safety technology—The President will instruct the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security to research smart gun technology that will potentially save lives by making it more difficult for unauthorized users, such as a child, intruder, or suicidal relative, from firing a gun they should not have access to.
We know that today’s executive action will go far to save lives in America, but we’re still looking to congressional leadership to work harder for the 90 percent of Americans who want smarter, stronger gun laws to protect them from gunfire. We agree with the president’s assessment that “until we have a Congress that’s in line with the majority of Americans, there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives–actions that protect our rights and our kids.” We’re thrilled President Obama took action on gun violence prevention today, but there’s still so much work to do–and we won’t stop until Americans across the country are safe from gunfire.
To learn more about gun laws in all 50 states, including which currently require private sale background checks and which do not, visit the Law Center’s 2015 Gun Law State Scorecard at gunlawscorecard.org
We’re so proud to release our much-anticipated annual Gun Law State Scorecard,which assigns letter grades and rankings to each state based on the strength of its gun laws.
The 2015 Gun Law State Scorecard reveals a strong correlation between smart gun laws and fewer gun deaths—states with the weakest laws, like Wyoming and Mississippi (ranked 48 and 49 out of 50), have some of the highest gun death rates in the country (5 and 3, respectively), while states with strong laws, like California and Massachusetts (ranked 1 and 5 out of 50), have some of the lowest gun death rates (42 and 49, respectively). Simply put, the Scorecard shows that gun laws save lives.
This year’s Scorecard comes at the tail-end of a year of seemingly relentless gun violence, with more mass shootings than days. High profile killings from Charleston to Roseburg to San Bernardino dominated the headlines in 2015 and public outcry over America’s gun violence epidemic reached a fever pitch. Never has attention been so strongly focused on this issue.
The Gun Law State Scorecard highlights a number of the gun violence prevention movement’s success stories in 2015, including:
Unprecedented momentum for smart gun laws in state legislatures: In the three years since the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, state lawmakers have passed a remarkable 125 new smart gun laws in 41 states.
Oregon passes universal background checks: Lawmakers in Oregon closed a glaring gap in federal law by enacting legislation requiring private or unlicensed firearm sellers to conduct background checks.
Failure of guns-on-campus bills: The gun violence prevention movement scored critical victories when it came to legislation that would allow carrying concealed weapons on college campuses and the grounds of K–12 schools—gun lobby bills failed in 14 and 15 states respectively.
Domestic violence legislation: Recognizing that women in domestic violence situations are five times more likely to be killed if their abusers have a gun, in 2015 nine states passed laws preventing domestic abusers from accessing firearms, with little opposition from the gun lobby.
“While Congress has shamefully failed to act on widely supported firearms policies like universal background checks and prohibiting gun possession by those on the terror watchlist, we have seen encouraging, lifesaving progress at the state level,” said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “The 2015 Gun Law State Scorecard shows that smart gun laws make a real difference. State legislators can make their communities safer by enacting common-sense gun laws, following in the footsteps of states like California and New York. Change isn’t just possible—it’s happening.”
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has been on the frontline of many of the fights for smart gun laws in 2015. The Law Center has been working in support of background checks in Oregon since 2012, worked closely with lawmakers in 20 states, and supported domestic violence gun legislation across the country.
Four men have been charged in the November 23 shooting at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Minneapolis, wounding five—an incident which authorities believe was racially motivated.
We need reform at the state and federal levels. We’re tired of our lawmakers offering their thoughts and prayers—those won’t stop the next mass shooter, or any of the 88 gun deaths we average per day. We’re ready for swift and decisive action to stop the 117,000 shootings the United States sees each year. And we know you are too. Our executive director, Robyn Thomas, wrote this op-ed for the Daily Dot on just how ready the American public is for the smart gun laws that will save lives.
…Action is needed. We are collectively answerable to the victims of gun violence and to an ever-growing community of grieving family members for the policies our leaders enact, or fail to enact, to protect our communities. We need to do more than just tweet sympathy—we need to force our leaders to pass the smart gun laws that the research has proven again and again save lives.
Polls have repeatedly shown that the American public is in broad agreement about what must be done to prevent gun violence. Over 90 percent of Americans support closing the loophole that allows felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill to buy guns without a background check. Yet, thanks to pressure from the gun lobby, Congress has failed to act…
While these shooters were all motivated by different factors and separated by hundreds of miles, a common thread ties the incidents together: it’s all too easy for extremists, zealots, and bigots to get their hands on deadly weapons when the impulse to inflict harm became too powerful to resist.
Last week, the world watched in horror as Paris came under attack–129 killed in coordinated mass shootings and bombings across the city. Our hearts are with the victims, their families, and those who survived the attack, and we stand with the people of the world in calling for an end to the kind of senseless violence that terrorized Paris and the global community this weekend.
As gun law experts, we know universal background checks and more effective mental health screenings will help prevent many of the headline-grabbing shootings we’ve seen in the last several years—these are effective, powerful ways to curb gun violence in our communities. But, it’s also important that we consider our nation’s security in the aftermath of the Paris attacks by looking at gaps in our gun laws–specifically concerning acts of terrorism.
One such weakness, the “terror gap,” persists because a hole in federal legislation does not bar those on the terrorist watchlist from purchasing firearms. Unlike felons, the dangerously mentally ill, and certain drug abusers, federal law does not prohibit known or suspected terrorists from purchasing guns. Though 82% of NRA members and 86% of non-NRA gun owners support such legislation, only one state (New Jersey in 2013) has taken appropriate steps to address the terror gap. This failure to act has resulted in drastic consequences:
To be clear, Friday’s attacks were not the result of weak national gun laws; with some of the most progressive gun laws in the world, France’s annual death rate from firearms is drastically lower than that of the United States. But illegal trafficking from nearby countries increases the availability of deadly weapons and makes it easier for terrorists to carry out acts of violence.
Acts of terrorism like the ones we witnessed last week and many of the strategies for combatting them are different in kind from the gun violence we see in American communities on a daily basis, but both situations are amplified by overwhelmingly easy access to deadly weapons. Trafficking may be what enables deplorable acts of terrorism like what we saw in Paris, but with effective legislation to close the terror gap, we can take important steps to ensure a safer, more secure environment for everyone.
With 100,000 Americans shot every year—and 30,000 dying from those wounds—gun violence is undoubtedly a major health crisis in the United States. To outline the leading causes of injury death by age, we highlighted instances of gun violence in this chart to show just how pervasive the issue is—and how urgently we need reforms and smart gun laws to protect communities from tragedy.
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Ranking in the top 10 for injury deaths for all ages except babies under the age of 1, we know guns threaten us at every single stage in our lives. Compiled using data from the Centers for Disease Control, the chart not only reveals the destructive nature of gun violence, but also shows just how instrumental the CDC’s research is in understanding the health issues that plague the United States. We’re proud to stand with California representative Mike Honda, who recently introduced a bill calling for an end to the CDC’s ban on gun violence research, to offer Americans a data-driven approach to ending this epidemic. We desperately need to support efforts toward transparency in determining what threatens our safety—especially when one of those threats is as preventable as gun violence.
We’ve broken down the chart into some key takeaways:
Ranking in the top five causes of death for Americans between the ages of 5 and 44, firearm homicide is an overwhelming threat at almost every age.
Firearm suicide—the third leading cause of death for children ages 10–14—remains in the top four causes of death for all subsequent age groups. With guns, the decision to take one’s own life is almost always irreversible—even if the person making that decision is only in the fourth grade.
Tragically, unintentional firearm deaths rank 10th and ninth for children ages 5–9 and 10–14, respectively. With guns in the home, children or toddlers looking for their toys and playing with their siblings can find deadly weapons instead—and kill themselves or their siblings without knowing the consequences that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Gun locks, safe storage practices and child access prevention laws can help prevent these senseless shootings.
This year, for the first time, firearm deaths are expected to take more lives in the 15–24 age group than motor vehicle accidents. The continual string of tragic school shootings and violence among young adults reminds us on a daily basis just how suddenly a promising life can end and how devastating it is that more and more young people are dying as a result of completely preventable gun violence.
Though we may only hear about shootings in the media when extreme or shocking mass shootings occur, the facts show that gun violence is a lethal threat to American lives each and every day. We need to implement smart gun laws that reverse the trend of horrific gun violence in the United States—not only through common sense solutions such as universal background checks and ammunition regulations, but by supporting government agencies, such as the CDC, designed to ensure our safety by taking on challenges to our public health.
It’s a fact that guns and domestic violence are a lethal combination in America—they’re the most common weapons used by abusers who kill their partners, and are by far the most deadly. As Domestic Violence Awareness Month comes to a close, we hope Americans gain a deeper understanding of the grave danger domestic abusers pose to public safety—especially when guns are involved.
Domestic violence situations involving guns are 12 times more likely to result in death than other weapons or bodily force.
Domestic abuse situations are five times more likely to be fatal if the abuser has access to a gun.
Women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than in other high-income countries.
And yet, in spite of this information, federal law contains deadly loopholes that let domestic abusers buy and possess firearms—especially if they already own them.
Despite inaction at the federal level, 18 states have passed new laws to protect victims of domestic violence from gunfire since 2013. These powerful pieces of legislation restrict convicted abusers from accessing guns or make it easier for law enforcement to remove guns from abusers who own them. These state laws are important because they directly address gaps in current policy regarding stalkers and dating partners and help background check systems identify convicted abusers.
For example, a new law in Delaware, which Governor Jack Markell signed earlier this month, extends the state’s gun prohibition to people convicted of dating partner abuse. The law also adds accountability to the requirement that domestic abusers subject to protective orders surrender their guns. Our attorneys worked closely with Americans for Responsible Solutions and local domestic violence and gun safety advocates to craft this lifesaving law.
The momentum for better domestic violence laws shows no signs of stopping—even states with strong gun cultures, like Utah and Louisiana, which both score an F on our Gun Law State Scorecard, have enacted laws barring domestic abusers from possessing firearms in recent years.
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is proud to join California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom in launching the Safety for All ballot initiative, a series of lifesaving smart gun laws that will further strengthen the Golden State’s commitment to improving public safety.
The announcement was made at 101 California Street in San Francisco—the site of the 1993 mass shooting at the law firm Pettit & Martin that killed eight and injured six. The Law Center was founded in the wake of that tragedy more than two decades ago, and since then we’ve become the premier resource for legal expertise and information about America’s gun laws.
The initiative will include five provisions, which will appear on the November 2016 ballot:
Prohibit Possession of Large-Capacity Military-Style Magazines: The Safety for All initiative outlaws possession of large-capacity magazines of 11 rounds or more and provides for their legal disposal. If passed, California would join New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia in banning possession of these military-style magazines.
Treat Ammunition Sales Like Gun Sales: The initiative requires licensing of ammunition vendors and point-of-sale background checks for ammunition purchases. Under the initiative, if a person is convicted of a felony, a violent misdemeanor, has a restraining order, or has been declared dangerously mentally ill, they will no longer be able to buy ammunition in California. California would be the first state to require ammunition background checks at the point of sale.
Ensure People Prohibited from Owning Guns Do Not Possess Them: The initiative defines a clear firearms relinquishment process for those convicted of a felony or a violent misdemeanor.
Require Reporting Lost or Stolen Guns: The initiative requires firearm owners to notify law enforcement if their firearm has been lost or stolen. With the Safety for All initiative, California would join 11 other states and the City of Sacramento in requiring lost and/or stolen firearm reporting.
Share Data with Federal System on Prohibited People: The initiative mandates that California share data with the FBI/NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System).
California has long led the nation when it comes to passing the smart gun laws that save lives, and this ballot initiative furthers that leadership by keeping guns and ammunition away from dangerous people. We’re proud to stand with Lieutenant Governor Newsom in the fight to bring sanity back to America’s gun laws.
Across the country, state lawmakers are proposing bills that pit politics against patient care—and healthcare providers are caught in the middle. Medical “gag laws” dictate what doctors can and cannot say to patients about a host of important public health issues, including gun safety. At the Law Center, we’re committed to ensuring Americans know the urgent threat that gun violence poses to public health, which is why we’re excited to collaborate with other members of the Coalition to Protect the Patient-Provider Relationship on a new report detailing the hazardous impact of gag laws.
Politics in the Exam Room: A Growing Threat examines state laws that dictate what doctors can and cannot say to patients about treatment and safety when it comes to a host of health issues, like toxic chemical exposure from fracking, women’s reproductive health, and gun safety. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is proud to join the National Partnership for Women & Families, National Physicians Alliance (NPA), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in examining these measures.
We know gun violence is a public health epidemic—data from the Centers for Disease Control shows there were an astonishing 117,621 incidents of gun violence in 2013, which means 322 people are shot per day in the United States.
In light of this fact, we know medical professionals are poised to speak with authority when it comes to ensuring safety around guns. One study reports that 64% of people who received advice from their doctors on safely storing firearms improved their gun safety practices, such as using trigger locks and gun safes to prevent unintentional shootings, suicide, and gun theft.
Florida, home to some of the weakest gun laws in the country, enacted the most restrictive gun-related medical gag law in 2011. It subjects healthcare providers, including pediatricians, to severe disciplinary action for inquiring about whether a patient owns a gun and if it is secured and out of reach of children. A number of other states have tried (and failed, thanks to efforts by the Law Center and other gun safety advocates) to implement similar measures, and more states are expected to propose similar legislation in 2016.
The report strongly urges lawmakers to reject or repeal any legislation that interferes with the patient-provider relationship or forces healthcare providers to violate accepted, evidence-based medical practices for political reasons. Our attorneys are committed to defending the lifesaving conversations born from trusting patient-provider relationships, and we respect the Hippocratic Oath that doctors have sworn for centuries—“First, do no harm.”
We find ourselves, yet again, in the aftermath of another tragic school shooting–this time at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. A gunman opened fire on campus last Thursday, killing nine students and injuring seven others. The incident was the 142nd school shooting since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, and the 294th mass shooting in the United States this year–which means we’ve averaged more than one mass shooting per day.
And again we’re left wondering when the political agenda set by our lawmakers will follow the will of the people. We know the vast majority of Americans support commonsense solutions that save lives from gunfire. 92 percent of Americans support universal background checks—and 92 percent of gun owners do too. It’s time our laws and leadership reflected that support, a sentiment our executive director, Robyn Thomas, expressed in a recent New York Times op-ed.
Hours after last week’s tragedy, President Barack Obama spoke of the urgent need for smart gun laws like universal background checks and gun violence protective orders—we applaud his leadership, and the Law Center is proud to stand with President Obama in the fight to bring some sanity to our gun laws.
“And it will require that the American people, individually, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, when you decide to vote for somebody, are making a determination as to whether this cause of continuing death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision,” the president said on Thursday. “If you think this is a problem, then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.”
We agree—Americans must start holding their lawmakers accountable when it comes to passing the kind of legislation that could help prevent another Roseburg—or Charleston, or Lafayette, or Chattanooga, or any of the other 294 mass shootings this year—from happening.
Gun Violence Protective Orders: Also known as gun violence restraining orders, these laws empower families and law enforcement to petition a judge to remove guns from individuals who pose a risk to themselves or others. Shooters often exhibit dangerous warning signs and GVPO laws help keep guns away from people with the intent to harm. California passed a landmark GVPO law last year in response to the shooting at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Limiting bulk purchase of guns and regulating ammunition sales: Firearms purchased in “multiple sales” are more frequently used in crimes, and mass shooters often stockpile ammunition, as seen in the 2012 mass shooting in an Aurora, CO cinema that left 12 dead and 28 injured.
The Law Center has made preventing mass shootings a top priority for over two decades—our organization was founded in the wake of a 1993 assault weapon rampage that killed eight and left six wounded. Our lawyers track gun laws in all 50 states, which we compile into our annual Gun Law State Scorecard. In 2014, we gave Oregon a D+ for their gun laws.
We already know what steps need to be taken to prevent the senseless killings that occur in communities across the United States. And while 117 new smart gun laws have been enacted in 39 states since Newtown, many lawmakers at the state and federal level continue to bow to the gun lobby’s deadly agenda. The Law Center is on the front lines of the battle against gun violence, and we need you to raise your voice in support of smart gun laws. Become a member today and join us in demanding more from the leaders that we elect to represent us—help us save lives.