Farewell Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy

Posted on Friday, January 9th, 2015

LCAV 19th Anniversary Dinner

This week, US Representative Carolyn McCarthy retired after 18 years in office. Congresswoman McCarthy was a tireless champion for smart gun laws throughout her career, sponsoring numerous bills to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, improve safety measures, and limit military-style weapons.

After the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, the deadliest mass shooting in American history, she introduced the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, which improved the national background check system in order to better prevent the dangerously mentally ill from purchasing firearms, saving untold lives. Unfortunately, there are still gaps in our background check system due to gun shows and other private sales, which Congresswoman McCarthy was an ardent supporter of fixing. (Learn more about how to close these gaps in our toolkit on background checks.)

Congresswoman McCarthy was herself affected by gun violence—her husband was killed and her son injured in the horrific shooting on the Long Island Railroad in 1993 that left six dead and 19 injured. In the aftermath of this tragedy, she began advocating for smarter gun laws, eventually winning a congressional seat in 1996.

We were proud to honor Congresswoman McCarthy at our Anniversary Dinner in 2012 (see a video of her speech here) for her years of courageous leadership to prevent gun violence. We are deeply grateful for her landmark work on this issue and inspired by her refusal to be bullied by the corporate gun lobby. All of us at the Law Center wish her the best of luck in her retirement, and we will continue to fight in her honor for smart gun laws that save lives.

Happy New Year

Posted on Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

 

Thank you to all our members and supporters for making 2014 a banner year for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence!

We were able to do more in 2014 than ever before, including tracking and analyzing 1600 firearms bills and 102 Second Amendment cases. We wrote the model law Washington State used as a guide for its historic background checks ballot initiative, worked with legislators to pass California’s landmark Gun Violence Restraining Order law, connected communities under attack from the gun lobby with pro bono legal support, filed eight amicus briefs in essential Second Amendment cases, and continued to provide support to legislators and advocates through our comprehensive reports on gun laws. Chief among those reports is our Annual Gun Law State Scorecard, which grades all 50 states on their gun laws.

With all this positive momentum, both for the Law Center and for the gun violence prevention movement, we fully expect 2015 to be another remarkable year in our fight to save lives from gun violence.

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Not a member yet? Learn how you can support the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and smart gun laws.

 

2014 Annual Gun Law State Scorecard

Posted on Friday, December 12th, 2014

As the second anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary approaches, the Law Center is proud to release our 2014 Gun Law State Scorecard, grading each state on its gun laws and analyzing trends in gun legislation nationwide.

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In the past two years, states have seen historic and unprecedented progress in adopting gun laws to help keep communities safe from gun violence. A total of 99 new laws strengthening gun regulations have passed in 37 states nationwide since December 12, 2012, and 10 states have made major overhauls to their gun laws. 2014 was a remarkable year for smart gun laws, with California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order law, Washington State’s successful ballot initiative for universal background checks, and seven states adopting legislation to keep guns out of the hands of domestic violence abusers, and look forward to building on this positive momentum in 2015.

Find out how your state did and learn how to improve your state’s grade at gunlawscorecard.org.

Commonsense Solutions: State Laws to Expand Background Checks for Unlicensed Gun Sales

Posted on Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

 
The single biggest gap in our nation’s gun laws is the lack of a background check requirement when a gun is sold by an unlicensed individual. Unlike licensed gun dealers, unlicensed “private” sellers are not required to conduct background checks on gun purchasers. This gap allows thousands of dangerous people, including convicted felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill, to acquire guns every year, even though they are legally ineligible to possess them.

As part of our ongoing partnership, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Americans for Responsible Solutions have created the third in our series of Commonsense Solutions toolkits. These comprehensive resources for legislators and advocates explore the many facets of America’s gun violence epidemic through distinct lenses, such as domestic violence and mental health. Commonsense Solutions: State Laws to Expand Background Checks for Unlicensed Gun Sales addresses the private sale background check gap and provides detailed, real-world solutions for state legislators to pass universal background checks and save lives.

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Don’t Let the Gun Lobby Keep Us from Having a Surgeon General

Posted on Thursday, November 13th, 2014

SWV-TopDocNowThe surgeon general plays an essential role in American society, advising top government officials and educating the general public on critical public health issues. Yet even in the face of the Ebola crisis, the United States has gone without its top doctor for nearly a year and a half. This is largely because the president’s nominee for the post, Dr. Vivek Murthy, a Harvard graduate who holds both an MD and an MBA from Yale, believes that gun violence is a public health issue. The gun lobby says this makes him an “antigun radical” and has pressured Congress to oppose his confirmation.

It’s time to send a message to Congress that Americans refuse to be bullied out of having an honest conversation about the public health impact of guns. Call your senators today and urge them to confirm Dr. Murthy as surgeon general.

Dr. Murthy’s position that firearms are a public health issue should not be controversial, given that more than 30,000 Americans lose their lives to gun-related violence each year, a number that rivals deaths from traffic accidents. Nor is this the first time that a top American health official has taken such a stance. C. Everett Koop, who was surgeon general under both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, described gun violence as “a public health emergency.” Louis W. Sullivan, health and human services secretary under George H. W. Bush, called gun violence “a public health problem.” Sullivan was confirmed in the Senate by a vote of 98 to 1.

Yet earlier this year, as the confirmation process for Dr. Murthy was unfolding, the NRA sent an alert to its members, asking them to contact their representatives and “oppose the nomination of President Obama’s radically antigun nominee.” The NRA also announced that it would “score” the confirmation vote, meaning that a senator voting for confirmation would likely receive a lower grade. In the face of this vocal opposition, the process stalled for months, leaving Dr. Murthy just one vote shy of becoming America’s next surgeon general.

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Regulating Guns in America: 2014 Edition

Posted on Friday, October 31st, 2014

 
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is proud to release the 2014 edition of our seminal publication, Regulating Guns in America: A Comprehensive Analysis of Gun Laws Nationwide.

This one-of-a-kind report on federal, state, and local gun laws is an invaluable resource for lawmakers, activists, and others seeking in-depth information on firearms regulation in a single publication. In addition to summarizing existing law and providing background information on gun policy, Regulating Guns in America offers common-sense, actionable legislative recommendations to prevent gun violence and save lives.

Topics covered include:

  • Background Checks & Access to Firearms
  • Gun Dealer Sales & Other Transfers
  • Gun Owner Responsibilities
  • Classes of Weapons
  • Consumer and Child Safety
  • Guns in Public Places
  • Investigating Gun Crimes
  • Local Authority to Regulate Firearms
  • Dangerous Trends in State Legislation
  • The Second Amendment

Download your copy of Regulating Guns in America today. Those interested in a print copy should email [email protected] for more information.

For the latest information on firearms regulations in all 50 states and the smart gun laws that can save lives, be sure to bookmark the Laws and Policies section of our website: smartgunlaws.org/gun-policy.

California’s New Gun Violence Restraining Order Law

Posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2014

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On September 30, Governor Jerry Brown signed California AB 1014, a new law that allows family members and law enforcement officers to seek a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) against people who pose a threat to themselves or others.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has written a comprehensive memo detailing the specifics of this important new legislation. We believe the GVRO law will help lead the way to more states enacting similar smart gun laws to empower families and keep communities safe.

As learned from the tragic Isla Vista shooting, shooters may exhibit certain warning signs of impending violence, but those behaviors may not be severe enough to allow authorities to take preventive action. Those in the best position to see and recognize these warning signs—immediate family members—are left without legal means to intervene. The GVRO law addresses this glaring problem by allowing concerned family members, as well as law enforcement officers, to obtain a Gun Violence Restraining Order, which is modeled on California’s effective domestic violence prevention laws.

If a judge determines someone to be a risk and issues a GVRO, that order will:

  • Temporarily prohibit that person from purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition
  • Allow law enforcement to temporarily remove any firearms or ammunition already in that person’s possession
  • Include procedures to allow the person have his or her guns and ammunition returned

The bill, endorsed by the Law Center and sponsored by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, passed by a wide margin in the state legislature in August. It joins a growing number of smart, common-sense gun policies that continue to give California the strongest gun laws in the United States.

Listen to one of our staff attorneys, Lindsey Zwicker, discuss the importance of California’s GVRO law on Airtalk with Larry Mantle.

Read the Law Center’s comprehensive legal memo on the new GVRO law.

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

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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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