Victory: Chicago Suburb’s Ban on Deadly Weapons Upheld

Posted on Friday, May 1st, 2015

In yet another major win for smart gun laws, the Seventh Circuit ruled this week that an ordinance adopted by Highland Park, Illinois, prohibiting assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines (LCAMs) does not violate the Second Amendment.

We were proud to file an amicus brief in the case, Friedman v. City of Highland Park, with the help of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, this year’s recipient of the Law Center’s Richard W. Odgers Pro Bono Partner Award. Highlighting the devastating role that assault weapons and large capacity magazines play in mass shootings and other gun crimes, the brief argued that the city’s prohibition on these military-style weapons is consistent with the Second Amendment.

The Law Center was founded in the wake of an assault weapon rampage, where the shooter also used large capacity magazines to kill nine and injure six at a law firm at 101 California Street in San Francisco in 1993. These weapons make it significantly easier for people to shoot more rounds more quickly, increasing the number of victims. Large capacity ammunition magazines are used disproportionately in mass shootings like those in Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, and Virginia Tech.

In a 2–1 decision authored by the prolific appellate judge, Frank Easterbrook, the Seventh Circuit agreed with the Law Center’s assessment of the case. “That laws similar to Highland Park’s reduce the share of gun crimes involving assault weapons is established by data,” Judge Easterbrook wrote. “A ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines… may reduce the carnage if a mass shooting occurs.”

Also of great importance to the court was the ordinance’s minimal impact on self-defense. “Unlike the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns [at issue in the landmark Heller case], Highland Park’s ordinance leaves residents with many self-defense options.” As a result, the court concluded that the city’s prohibition on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines does not violate the Second Amendment.

This victory yet again demonstrates the unprecedented momentum across the country for common-sense gun laws. The ruling is the second so far this year regarding prohibitions on military-style weapons, following the Ninth Circuit’s recent ruling upholding a Sunnyvale, CA, ban on possessing large capacity magazines. Several similar cases are currently pending in federal appellate courts across the country, including the Second, Fourth, and Tenth Circuits. The Law Center filed amicus briefs in each of these cases as part of our commitment to fight for smart gun laws that will save countless lives. We expect positive outcomes in these cases–stand with us in the fight for safer communities for everyone and become a member today.

Learn more about large capacity ammunition magazines and the dangers of assault weapons by visiting our policy page.


Choose Common Sense over Campus Carry

Posted on Wednesday, April 15th, 2015


The debate over allowing guns on campus is raging across America. So far in 2015, 16 states have introduced dangerous bills that would allow hidden, loaded guns on public and private college campuses. But, enacting legislation allowing more guns to be carried on and around schools only increases the opportunity for gun violence.Trendwatch-Map-Schools-4.10

We already know that permissive concealed carry laws are linked to an increase in violent crime, and workplaces that allow guns are significantly more dangerous to workers—more guns on campus place a burden and pose a risk for people who work at schools too. Additionally, the university experience introduces new stressors and social pressures to students, factors contributing to an increase in risky behaviorlike drinking and drug use—that make college campuses a hazardous climate for relaxed access to firearms.

The gun lobby is also pushing an agenda that labels campus carry as a safety measure that would protect women from sexual assault. In theory, victims could use a gun to defend against a sexual predator, but the reality is darker—assailants would be allowed to carry concealed weapons, too. Sexual violence on campuses is also often committed by a person the victim knows, and often linked to situations where people are drinking—a potentially deadly scenario if concealed weapons are present.



No Permit, Big Problem

Posted on Friday, March 27th, 2015


One of the gun lobby’s priorities in 2015 is pushing dangerous legislation to allow people to carry hidden, loaded handguns in public without a permit. Currently, only four states lack a permit requirement for concealed carry, but in the first three months of 2015, 20 states have introduced bills to remove this lifesaving public safety measure.

This is a potentially deadly trend. “No permit” concealed carry will:

  • Embolden felons and other prohibited people to carry concealed weapons in public.
  • Reduce law enforcement’s ability to identify those prohibited people.
  • Increase the risk of intentional and accidental shootings in public places.
  • Increase gun trafficking.

Without a permit requirement, it becomes more difficult for law enforcement to confirm that people carrying loaded, hidden weapons in public are law abiding. Felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill are forbidden from possessing firearms under federal law, but with “no permit” the police lose an avenue to check that people are carrying guns legally, which in turn emboldens dangerous people to carry guns in public with little risk of being caught, jeopardizing the safety of police officers and the public.

The application process for a concealed carry permit—which includes mandatory firearm safety training in several states—naturally limits the number of people applying to carry guns in public. Without these permits, more people will carry concealed weapons, increasing the risk that everyday disagreements will escalate into shootouts, especially in places where disputes frequently occur—in bars, at sporting events, and in traffic. Experts have agreed, again and again, that more guns in public leads to more gun injuries and deaths—not fewer.

Weak concealed carry laws are also correlated to an increase in gun trafficking. Mayors Against Illegal Guns (now Everytown for Gun Safety) found that states with weak permitting laws are the source of crime guns recovered in other states at more than twice the rate of states with strong permitting laws.

Last week, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin courageously vetoed a no permit bill after bipartisan polling found that 83 percent of voters and 81 percent of gun owners in that state support requiring a permit to carry a concealed weapon. And West Virginians echo national sentiment—88 percent of likely 2016 voters oppose laws allowing people to carry hidden, loaded weapons without a permit.

These polling figures show that both the gun lobby and the politicians who play to them are out of touch with what Americans want—and concealed carry permits are part of that package. The good news is that in spite of the gun lobby’s efforts, we’ve seen an unprecedented momentum for smart gun laws. Since Newtown, 99 new smart gun laws have been passed and the gun lobby has lost court case after court case, including just this month in Fyock v. Sunnyvale and Pena v Lindley. The tide is turning.

More Good News from the Courts: Ninth Circuit to Rehear Peruta

Posted on Thursday, March 26th, 2015


Today, the Ninth Circuit agreed to rehear Peruta v. San Diego, a dangerous decision that struck down San Diego County’s application of the state’s “good cause” requirement for concealed carry permits. This very encouraging news comes on the heels of a string of recent court victories for smart gun laws, including decisions on a large capacity magazine ban in Sunnyvale and California’s Unsafe Handgun Act.

Peruta is an especially high-profile case that has the potential to influence gun policy across the country. At issue is whether requiring permit applicants to demonstrate a specific need to carry a loaded, hidden weapon in public violates the Second Amendment. The two-judge majority in Peruta struck down that requirement, but the decision was contrary to the rulings of several other circuit courts nationwide and, if allowed to stand, would seriously jeopardize public safety in California.

The Law Center has been involved in Peruta from the start, filing several amicus briefs throughout the litigation, including one urging the Ninth Circuit to rehear the case, and we are very excited that the Ninth Circuit agreed—rightly—that a review of the decision was warranted.

Today’s news demonstrates yet again that the gun lobby is on the run when it comes to Second Amendment litigation. These victories combined with last year’s landmark background checks ballot initiative in Washington State and the slew of smart gun laws being introduced in state legislatures across the country shows that in spite of federal inaction, Americans are willing to fight for the sensible gun legislation that save lives.

Read our full summary of Peruta to learn more.

Success in Sunnyvale—Another Victory for Gun Safety

Posted on Thursday, March 5th, 2015


California leads the nation when it comes to smart gun laws, and the Law Center is proud to have played an essential role in the latest decision handed down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit upheld a California district court’s decision in Fyock v City of Sunnyvale, concerning a 2013 ballot measure that prohibited the possession of large-capacity magazines within the city limits of Sunnyvale, CA. Voters ushered in Measure C with a decisive 66% of the vote, yet the plaintiffs claimed local regulation of these deadly magazines infringed on their Second Amendment rights. The Ninth Circuit found little support for the NRA-backed plaintiffs’ argument that the law violates the Second Amendment, holding that Sunnyvale had presented sufficient evidence to show that the law would likely be found constitutional.

When the gun lobby hired expensive, high-profile Supreme Court litigators to try to overrule Sunnyvale’s voters, we countered by connecting the city with pro bono legal counsel from the highly respected law firm of Farella, Braun + Martel. We also filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit, outlining the many dangers of large capacity magazines (those that can hold more than 10 rounds), which make it easier for criminals to shoot more people more quickly, increasing the number of victims. These magazines are disproportionately used in mass shootings, like those in Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, Virginia Tech, and the 1993 massacre in San Francisco that led to the founding of the Law Center.

The Sunnyvale victory builds on the unprecedented momentum across the country for common sense guns laws that save lives. Just last week, a federal court upheld California’s groundbreaking Unsafe Handgun Act, which keeps junk guns off the market and requires the use of microstamping technology, making it easier for law enforcement to trace crime guns. The decision to uphold this important law will help encourage other states to follow suit. Historic progress is also being made in state legislatures, with 99 new smart gun laws passed in 37 states since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. But there’s still much work to be done, and the Law Center is ready to fight for the rights of communities to legislate their own safety. Join us in the fight against gun violence.

Learn more about the dangers of large capacity ammunition magazines.

Check out the Law Center’s amicus brief in the Sunnyvale case.

Federal Court Upholds All Aspects of California’s Unsafe Handgun Act

Posted on Wednesday, March 4th, 2015



Chalk up another win for California’s common sense gun laws. Last week, US District Judge Kimberly Mueller ruled that the state’s groundbreaking Unsafe Handgun Act (“UHA”) is constitutional, a major victory for gun safety proponents. The UHA, originally passed in 1999, requires all handguns sold in the state to meet rigorous safety standards, which reduce the number of “junk guns” on the market. All new handguns must pass firing and drop testing, utilize a ”chamber load” indicator, and incorporate microstamping technology—a unique code imprinted on a casing when a handgun is fired, which helps law enforcement solve gun crimes.

A number of individual gun owners and pro-gun organizations filed the lawsuit in 2009, arguing that the UHA interfered with their right to own any handgun, regardless of quality. In her decision, Judge Mueller pointed out that the UHA merely “imposes conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms,” which the US Supreme Court specifically identified as a “presumptively lawful” regulation in its landmark Heller decision. With this in mind, Judge Mueller found that the UHA “does not adversely impact the access to and sale of firearms” and forcefully concluded that “[t]his degree of regulation is negligible and does not burden plaintiffs’ rights under the Second Amendment.”

Plaintiffs have already filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit, where the Law Center plans to file an amicus brief in support of the law. As Judge Mueller correctly found, the right to bear arms does not include the right to purchase poorly made, low-quality guns that do not meet common sense safety standards. We hope you’ll join us in the fight to defend the UHA, a key component of California’s intelligent approach to gun violence prevention. Smart gun laws like the UHA have helped decrease firearm homicide rates in California more than 64 percent since the mid-1990s, and positioned California as a model for other states when it comes to combating the public health crisis of gun violence in the United States.

2015 State Gun Law Trendwatch

Posted on Friday, February 27th, 2015


A key component of the work our legal experts do here at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is tracking and analyzing firearms legislation in all 50 states. As the 2015 legislative cycle kicks into gear, we’ve noticed several patterns. Our biweekly Gun Law Trendwatch rounds up and analyzes the positive legislative trends (such as bills that are being considered in a handful of states to require background checks for private sales), negative legislative trends (like a spate of campus carry bills), and a roundup of bills on the move. We hope you find Trendwatch useful in your legislative efforts this year.





Law Center Honors Nancy Skinner

Posted on Thursday, February 5th, 2015

From left: Law Center board member and cofounder James Fousekis, former Assemblymember Nancy Skinner,
legal director Julie Leftwich, and board president Steve Smith. Photo courtesy of the Berkeley Times.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence was thrilled to honor retired California Assemblymember Nancy Skinner last Thursday evening. Friends and supporters gathered at the East Bay home of Law Center board member and co-founder James Fousekis, where Law Center legal director Julie Leftwich presented Skinner with an award for her years of work fighting for smart gun laws in the California state legislature.

Because of leaders like Skinner, and the efforts of the Law Center, California has some of the best gun laws in the country, earning at A- on our annual Gun Law State Scorecard. It also boasts one of the lowest gun death rates in the country, demonstrating the strong correlation between smart gun laws and reduced gun violence.

In 2014, Skinner introduced California’s landmark Gun Violence Restraining Order bill, which became law last October. The first of its kind, the GVRO law empowers families to petition the court to temporarily prohibit loved ones who pose a threat to themselves or others from possessing guns. The bill was introduced in response to last summer’s tragic shooting in Isla Vista—the shooter’s parents had warned law enforcement that their son was dangerous, but police had no legal means to prevent the shooter from purchasing the guns that would ultimately kill six and wound 13. Skinner’s GVRO law will help prevent future shootings like this from occurring, and is already being looked at as a model for states around the country.

Learn more about California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order law.

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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