Victory in Iowa: Background Checks Saved

Posted on Friday, June 12th, 2015


Last week, the gun violence prevention movement notched yet another big victory for smart gun laws, this time in Iowa. Currently, potential buyers must apply for a permit to purchase a handgun, renewed annually, but legislation supported by the gun lobby would have repealed this essential safety requirement.

Had the bill passed, a person buying a handgun from a private seller in Iowa would not be required to submit to a background check. These essential provisions help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people like convicted felons and domestic abusers. Background checks are widely supported by most Americans, and polls show even 74 percent of NRA members support these lifesaving measures.

Many players in the gun violence prevention movement came together to save Iowa’s crucial background check laws. The Law Center is proud to have worked on the frontlines to help defeat this ill-conceived bill, lending the weight of our legal expertise to the chorus of opposition to the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda.

The defeat of this legislation keeps Iowa one of the 18 states who have private sale background checks, and sets an encouraging precedent for the rest of the nation in protecting the public and promoting smarter laws for safer communities.

This victory for background checks in Iowa, and recent others in Washington and Oregon show the powerful impact our movement can have when working together for smart laws that save lives.

For more information on background checks, see our policy page.

San Francisco’s Smart Gun Laws Remain Unchallenged by Supreme Court

Posted on Tuesday, June 9th, 2015


There’s good news this week for San Franciscans—and supporters of smart gun laws nationwide. The US Supreme Court announced that it would not review Jackson v. City and County of San Francisco, a Ninth Circuit decision upholding a pair of lifesaving San Francisco ­ordinances that prohibit deadly hollow-point “cop killer” ammunition and require the safe storage of firearms.

The notion that the Second Amendment is not a barrier to commonsense gun laws is central to the Law Center’s mission. We’ve been working tirelessly with San Francisco lawmakers for almost two decades to make the city safer from gun violence, and the result is smart gun laws like these.


The city’s safe storage ordinance encourages responsible gun ownership practices by requiring that handguns be either stored in a safe or disabled with a trigger lock at all times when not actually on the owner’s person. This was a direct response to the fact that one in three handguns is kept loaded and unlocked, which drastically increases the risk of deadly shootings in the home—especially of children. Safe storage is also a critical component to Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws, supported by prosecutors like Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and New York County’s District Attorney, Cy Vance Jr., whom we’re honoring at our Anniversary Dinner in San Francisco on June 18.

San Francisco also enacted a prohibition on hollow-point bullets, which are designed to expand upon impact, in order to reduce the likelihood that shooting victims will die of their injuries by lowering the lethality of the ammunition sold within the city.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to review the decision upholding these laws marks the 67th time that the Court has denied review in a lawsuit based on an alleged violation of the Second Amendment since the landmark Heller decision in 2008. Since Heller was decided, the lower courts have rejected 93% of all Second Amendment claims and the Supreme Court has demonstrated its unwillingness to take up the issue—further reinforcing the Law Center’s position that smart gun laws are very much compatible with the Second Amendment.

For more information about smart gun storage laws, see the Law Center’s Safe Storage and Gun Locks Policy Summary.


Disorganized Crime: How Smart Gun Laws Can Stop Gangs

Posted on Friday, May 22nd, 2015

strawsEarlier this week, a shootout at a Waco, Texas, bar left nine dead, 18 injured, and more than 170 arrested. The vast majority of those involved appear to be members of various rival biker gangs. More than 100 handguns were among nearly 500 weapons collected—an alarmingly high concentration of guns in the hands of a volatile population.

While we don’t yet know the origin of the guns recovered at the scene of the firefight, motorcycle gangs and other organized crime groups tend to rely heavily on trafficked guns, which are often all too easy for dangerous people to obtain through illegal means or legal loopholes:

  • Corrupt Dealers: Trafficked guns most often come from licensed firearms dealers who sell inventory off the books. Strong dealer regulations like videotaping transactions and employee background checks help curb this practice.
  • Straw Purchases: Felons and other people prohibited from possessing guns often engage another person—someone who can pass a background check—to execute the paperwork when purchasing a gun, which is illegal.
  • Private Sales: Many states do not require a background check for the private sale of a gun, which makes it shockingly easy for prohibited people to get their hands on firearms. Universal background checks prevent dangerous people from accessing guns and save lives.

We know that guns used in crimes move from states with weak gun laws, like Texas and Arizona, to states with smart gun laws, like California and New York. Enforcing existing laws and bringing in new legislation like universal background checks will prevent dangerous people, such as those involved in organized crime, from obtaining the weapons that allow them to wreak such havoc in communities like Waco.

Learn more about the dangers of trafficking—and the legal solutions to curtail it—at our Trafficking Policy Page.


Could the FBI and ATF Merge to Create an Innovative Approach to Gun Laws?

Posted on Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Our partners at the Center for American Progress (CAP) released “The Bureau and the Bureau,” a new investigative report on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the poor management, inadequate resources, and onerous regulations that have led to the weak enforcement of gun laws in the United States. The report recommends that we fold the ATF into the FBI—an idea that has roots in President Reagan’s first campaign, and has been debated by Congress in different forms intermittently ever since.


“Highlighting the challenges that ATF faces is not just another idle exercise in criticizing the inefficient bureaucracy of the federal government. The problem of gun violence in the United States is urgent: every day in America, assailants using guns murder 33 people. It is imperative that the federal government takes action to enforce the laws designed to stem the tide of this violence and that it does moreto ensure that guns do not end up in the hands of criminals and other dangerous individuals.” –”The Bureau and the Bureau,” Center for American Progress

CAP’s two-year investigation examined all aspects of both agencies—leadership structure, budgetary appropriations, coordination and communications, and the potential cost savings of merging the two bureaus. CAP’s report also shares ideas for a new organizational structure for the combined ATF and FBI. At the Law Center, we support common-sense solutions that will end the harrowing burden gun violence places on our communities. It’s essential that law enforcement organizations like the ATF have the highest caliber leadership and adequate funding to save lives, end gun trafficking, and enforce regulations on gun dealers. Because of political opposition from the gun lobby, the ATF was without a director for seven years, until B. Todd Jones was confirmed by the United States Senate in July 2014. He resigned after just seven months, following a failed effort to ban green tip “cop killer” bullets.

The instability of the ATF’s management structure makes now the right time to rethink the way the FBI and ATF work together. The gun lobby has pressured Congress to underfund the ATF and adopt burdensome regulations that make it harder for agents to enforce the smart gun laws already on the books, all of which has brought the ATF to a fever pitch of inefficiency.

CAP’s assessment that the FBI can provide strong oversight to an agency with a mission so critical to the safety of our citizens is an essential part of the conversation that needs to be had about enacting and enforcing smart gun laws at the federal level.

Read the full 160-page report on the Center for American Progress website.

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.