Posted on Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
Across the country, new gun legislation is being proposed at a steady pace, and our attorneys are hard at work, writing model laws, educating lawmakers and the public on smart gun laws, and tracking these bills as they wind their way through the legislative system. Last year, we tracked more than 1,300 bills and expect this year to be another busy one for smart gun laws at the state level—not to mention the ballot initiatives that will enable voters to enact lifesaving smart gun laws this November. For a full analysis of this cycle’s firearms legislation, visit our biweekly publication Gun Law Trendwatch.
We’ve started the year with critical victories in key states:
- In Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a deadly bill that would have allowed anyone over 21 to carry a concealed, loaded weapon on college campuses, which would have increased the opportunity for violent shootings.
- In Nebraska, lawmakers stopped progress on a preemption bill that would have prevented municipalities from enacting lifesaving local laws, like ones that keep guns away from domestic violence shelters and prevent juvenile gang members and the dangerously mentally ill from obtaining deadly weapons.
- In New Mexico, lawmakers passed powerful, bipartisan legislation to strengthen that state’s background check system by requiring state courts to report mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Closing this gap in the background checks law will help keep guns from falling into the wrong hands.
- In Florida, lawmakers stopped progress on an open carry bill, which would have allowed 1.5 million people with concealed weapons permits to openly carry handguns in the Sunshine State.
The most exciting advances for smart gun laws still lie ahead—this November, voters in Maine and Nevada will see initiatives for universal background checks on their ballots. And signatures were recently turned in for two more ballot initiatives: one for Washington State to adopt a gun violence protective order (GVPO) law and another in California to support the Safety for All Act, sponsored by Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom.
We’re also keeping an eye on some extreme examples of gun lobby–sponsored legislation that pose a significant risk to public safety, including an Arizona bill to permit guns in government buildings and a bill in Oklahoma to allow people to carry guns in public without a permit, a top priority in the gun lobby’s deadly agenda.
Our legal experts stand on the front lines of the fight for smart gun laws that save lives—our attorneys track and analyze gun laws in all 50 states, file amicus briefs in critical Second Amendment cases across the country, and work with lawmakers and advocates to craft and promote legislation that will reduce gun violence and save lives. 2016 is shaping up to be another remarkable year for gun safety.
Law Center and Americans for Responsible Solutions Merging to Create a Bold New Force for Smart Gun Laws
Posted on Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
We’re so excited to announce a powerful new relationship between the Law Center and one of our strongest allies in the battle for smart gun laws, Americans for Responsible Solutions. We’re forming a new force for gun safety legislation, education, research, and advocacy that stretches from coast to coast, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to forge ahead in the fight against gun violence under the tireless leadership of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly.
The merger between the Law Center and ARS builds on years of collaboration between the two organizations—our legal, policy, and advocacy teams have worked in concert to advance the smart gun laws that save lives and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. Some examples of our coordinated efforts include:
- Working with the Obama administration on a bold series of executive actions to narrow loopholes and improve the background checks system.
- Achieving lifesaving legislative victories in statehouses across the country. Together, our teams advocated successfully for Delaware’s new procedures to protect victims of domestic violence from abusers and saved an essential permit-to-purchase law in Iowa, among many others.
- Collaborating on a series of Commonsense Solutions toolkits that have provided lawmakers with actionable steps they can take to secure communities against the threat of gun violence. We’ve addressed how to reduce gun deaths associated with mental illness and domestic violence, how to expand lifesaving background checks to unlicensed gun sales, and how to keep kids safe from unintentional shootings—with more to come.
Joining forces with ARS is the natural evolution of so many successful joint initiatives, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have the opportunity for greater impact. Effective immediately, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence will now operate as part of the Americans for Responsible Solutions Foundation, the 501(c)(3) arm of Americans for Responsible Solutions.
“By teaming up with Americans for Responsible Solutions, our legal experts will now have a much larger platform to help bring key policies like universal background checks to more states,” said Robyn Thomas, the Law Center’s executive director. “Since ARS’s founding in 2013, our movement has experienced unprecedented momentum, with 125 new smart gun laws passed in 41 states. America is taking action to stand up to the gun lobby and save lives from gun violence, in large part due to the commitment of Gabby, Mark, and the rest of the ARS team, and we couldn’t be more excited to join forces with them.”
By uniting our unmatched legal acumen with ARS’s nationwide legislative, communications, and advocacy expertise, both organizations will be better able to advance smart gun laws that the vast majority of Americans support, and continue to drive the national conversation forward when it comes to saving lives from an epidemic that kills over 30,000 each year and leaves more than 80,000 injured.
Learn more about Americans for Responsible Solutions at responsiblesolutions.org
Posted on Thursday, March 10th, 2016
The crisis of American gun violence is perhaps most visible in our nation’s urban centers. The United States already has a higher-than-average homicide rate, but in cities like Baltimore and Detroit, that rate can be up to 10 times higher. And poor, minority communities are often the hardest hit—young black men in particular face a homicide rate 20 times higher than the national average. We have a shared duty to address this dire crisis and save the lives of those most vulnerable.
Fortunately, some cities have implemented successful programs that work in concert with smart gun laws to reduce the death toll for this population. In our new report, Healing Communities in Crisis: Lifesaving Solutions to the Urban Gun Violence Epidemic, produced in partnership with the PICO National Network, we’ve examined what works best when it comes to saving lives from gunfire.
Healing Communities in Crisis outlines two categories of solutions: intervention programs and policy reforms. These approaches are grounded in the insight that, in most communities, an incredibly small and identifiable population is responsible for the vast majority of gun violence. Our report highlights the following programs:
- Group Violence Intervention (GVI) – In this approach to gun violence prevention, a partnership of law enforcement, community members, and service providers is assembled to meet with small groups of the most at-risk individuals in order to send a message that the shooting must stop. The program has now been replicated in a wide array of American cities, with consistently impressive results.
- Cure Violence (CV) – This promising strategy treats violence like a communicable disease. The spread of violence is interrupted by employing Outreach Workers and Violence Interrupters to work directly with individuals most likely to commit or become the victims of gun violence. A community campaign is also conducted to change norms surrounding the use of violence.
- Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Programs (HVIP) – Victims of violent injury are very likely to end up back in the hospital. This model takes advantage of a unique teachable moment by connecting violently injured youths with culturally competent case managers who are able to shepherd their clients to badly-needed social services that enable change.
Our report also lays out the policy reforms most likely to decrease the supply of crime guns in impacted communities. These policies include: universal background checks, permit to purchase laws, gun trafficking regulations, and prohibitions on large capacity ammunition magazines.
This crisis cannot be ignored any longer. It’s time for change—we must act to rebuild a sense of safety and security in our nation’s cities. Healing Communities in Crisis provides a way to move forward together.
Posted on Friday, February 26th, 2016
This week, our nation suffered yet again as news of two more mass shootings made headlines. On Saturday night, an Uber driver in Kalamazoo, MI, shot eight people, killing six, in a five-hour spree with victims in three locations. Chillingly, the shooter picked up fares between killings, and no connection to the victims has been found—a truly senseless tragedy that sent shockwaves through a community.
And just yesterday, a gunman in Hesston, KS, shot an assault rifle out of his car while driving and then opened fire at the manufacturing plant where he worked. Earlier in the afternoon, he’d been served with a protective order filed by his ex-girlfriend, alleging physical abuse and noting, “He is an alcoholic, violent, depressed, and it’s my belief that he is in need of medical and psychological help!”
Less than two hours after the order was served, the gunman had already killed three and injured 14 others before dying in a shootout with police.
Kansas has yet to enact even the most basic common-sense gun laws—the state ranked last in our 2015 Gun Law State Scorecard. In fact, last year it went so far as to repeal a lifesaving permit-to-purchase requirement. We know the shooter was a convicted felon and prohibited from legally possessing a firearm, but this didn’t prevent him from having easy access to deadly weapons.
States like California and Massachusetts, with the help of the Law Center, have stepped up to protect their citizens with laws such as universal background checks, firearms relinquishment procedures, and gun violence restraining orders. And they’ve seen drops in their gun death rates as a result.
Lawmakers in Kansas can do more to stand up to the to the gun lobby’s deadly agenda and enact laws that protect their citizens—laws, such universal background checks, that enjoy wide public support. In light of yesterday’s shooting in Hesston, domestic violence protections would be a natural place to start. Laws to keep victims safe from armed abusers have failed to pass in Kansas in the past, but have recently been enacted by other conservative states such as Louisiana and South Carolina and are often passed by bipartisan coalitions.
We’re proud of the historic progress we’ve seen in states across the country, especially since the tragedy at Sandy Hook–but we know there’s still more work that must be done to keep Americans safe from gun violence. We won’t stop fighting for the smart gun laws that help keep deadly weapons away from dangerous people.
Posted on Wednesday, January 27th, 2016
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.
For more information about Nebraska’s state gun laws, see our policy page.
To learn more about preemption laws, see our policy page.
For more information on how your state stacks up when it comes to smart gun laws, visit our 2015 Gun Law State Scorecard.
Posted on Tuesday, January 5th, 2016
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 better reporting 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
Posted on Wednesday, December 16th, 2015
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.
Posted on Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
Yesterday, the United States suffered yet another mass shooting—our 355th of the year. Fourteen were killed and 21 injured after two shooters rampaged through the Inland Regional Center in San Bernadino, California. Reports are emerging that the suspects were radicalized and have links to known terrorists.
Just days before, a Colorado Springs shopping center and Planned Parenthood fell under siege as a man radically opposed to abortion engaged in an hours-long standoff with law enforcement, killing three and injuring nine others with a semiautomatic rifle.
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.
For more information on California’s gun laws, see our policy page.
For more information on how your state stacks up when it comes to smart gun laws, see our annual Gun Law State Scorecard.
Posted on Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
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:
- Between 2004 and 2014, known or suspected terrorists attempted to purchase guns from American dealers at least 2,233 times. And, 91% of the time, they succeeded.
- On more than 1,300 occasions, the FBI was unable to block sales to known or suspected terrorists because the person did not fall into a prohibited category.
- Suspected terrorists have used firearms in a number of high-profile shootings, such as in the firefight that followed the Boston Marathon bombing and the November 2009 massacre at Fort Hood.
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.
Within our own borders, weak gun laws in most states make it easy for deadly firearms to fall into the wrong hands. And this fact is far from a secret—a senior al-Qaeda leader even lauded how simple it is to obtain firearms in America, releasing a video message to urge followers to buy guns in states without universal background checks.
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.