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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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.