The Deadliest Shooting in American History

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Terror tore through an Orlando nightclub early Sunday morning. A gunman, motivated by hate and enabled by all-too easy access to deadly, military-style weapons killed at least 50 and wounded another 53 in the deadliest mass shooting in US history. This was not a record we wanted to break.

The attack specifically targeted the LGBTQ community in Orlando, and the shooter reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a 911 call. As the story continues to develop, one fact becomes clearer and clearer: it’s far too easy for dangerous people—whether they’re terrorists, bigots, domestic abusers, or dangerously mentally ill—to get their hands on guns. And when that happens, innocent people die.

It’s been almost a year since Charleston. Three years since Newtown. Five since Tucson. Nine since Virginia Tech. Seventeen since Columbine. Twenty-three since 101 California, the mass shooting that inspired the Law Center’s founding.

It’s long past time for Congress to listen to its constituents and fix the broken policies—like the gun show loophole and the terror gap—that we know will help prevent shootings.

And if our federal leaders won’t listen, we need to enact better legislation at the state level, especially in Florida, which has some of the weakest gun laws in the country and receives an F on our Gun Law State Scorecard. Not only does Florida not require background checks on private gun sales or prohibit assault weapons like the one used in the Orlando shooting, it specifically has a law forbidding doctors from talking to their patients about gun safety. It’s time to bring some sanity to the Sunshine State and pass the smart gun laws that have been proven over and over again to save lives.

Our hearts go out to the victims of the Orlando shooting, the LGBTQ community, and the more than 117,000 Americans shot every year. This is a sad day in the United States. All of us here at the Law Center vow to turn this pain into action and redouble our efforts fighting for a rational, commonsense approach to American gun laws.

To see how states rank when it comes to smart gun laws, check out the 2015 Gun Law State Scorecard.

To learn more about Florida’s gun laws, see our policy page. 

In the Thick of It: 2016’s Busy Legislative Cycle

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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.

To learn more about the gun laws moving through statehouses this year, check out Gun Law Trendwatch.

Healing Communities in Crisis: Lifesaving Solutions to the Urban Gun Violence Epidemic

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.

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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.

Read Healing Communities in Crisis: Lifesaving Solutions to the Urban Gun Violence Epidemic

Standing with the President for Smart Gun Laws

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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

Extremism Leaves a Nation on Edge


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…

Read more…

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.

Read the full text of Robyn’s op-ed

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.

 

 

Closing the Terror Gap in American Gun Laws

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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:

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.

Smart Gun Laws Protect Families from Domestic Violence

DV-blog-graphicIt’s a fact that guns and domestic violence are a lethal combination in America—they’re the most common weapons used by abusers who kill their partners, and are by far the most deadly. As Domestic Violence Awareness Month comes to a close, we hope Americans gain a deeper understanding of the grave danger domestic abusers pose to public safety—especially when guns are involved.

  • Domestic violence situations involving guns are 12 times more likely to result in death than other weapons or bodily force.
  • Domestic abuse situations are five times more likely to be fatal if the abuser has access to a gun.
  • Women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than in other high-income countries.

And yet, in spite of this information, federal law contains deadly loopholes that let domestic abusers buy and possess firearms—especially if they already own them.

Despite inaction at the federal level, 18 states have passed new laws to protect victims of domestic violence from gunfire since 2013. These powerful pieces of legislation restrict convicted abusers from accessing guns or make it easier for law enforcement to remove guns from abusers who own them. These state laws are important because they directly address gaps in current policy regarding stalkers and dating partners and help background check systems identify convicted abusers.

For example, a new law in Delaware, which Governor Jack Markell signed earlier this month, extends the state’s gun prohibition to people convicted of dating partner abuse. The law also adds accountability to the requirement that domestic abusers subject to protective orders surrender their guns. Our attorneys worked closely with Americans for Responsible Solutions and local domestic violence and gun safety advocates to craft this lifesaving law.

The momentum for better domestic violence laws shows no signs of stopping—even states with strong gun cultures, like Utah and Louisiana, which both score an F on our Gun Law State Scorecard, have enacted laws barring domestic abusers from possessing firearms in recent years.

For more information on the laws states can pass to help protect victims of domestic abuse, see our Commonsense Solutions Toolkit: State Laws to Address Gun Violence Against Women.

For more information about existing domestic violence gun laws, visit our policy page.

See how your state stacks up when it comes to domestic violence gun laws and join the campaign to Protect All Women.

Teaming Up with the Lieutenant Governor to End Gun Violence in California

IMG_3519The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is proud to join California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom in launching the Safety for All ballot initiative, a series of lifesaving smart gun laws that will further strengthen the Golden State’s commitment to improving public safety.

The announcement was made at 101 California Street in San Francisco—the site of the 1993 mass shooting at the law firm Pettit & Martin that killed eight and injured six. The Law Center was founded in the wake of that tragedy more than two decades ago, and since then we’ve become the premier resource for legal expertise and information about America’s gun laws.

The initiative will include five provisions, which will appear on the November 2016 ballot:

  • Prohibit Possession of Large-Capacity Military-Style Magazines: The Safety for All initiative outlaws possession of large-capacity magazines of 11 rounds or more and provides for their legal disposal. If passed, California would join New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia in banning possession of these military-style magazines.
  • Treat Ammunition Sales Like Gun Sales: The initiative requires licensing of ammunition vendors and point-of-sale background checks for ammunition purchases. Under the initiative, if a person is convicted of a felony, a violent misdemeanor, has a restraining order, or has been declared dangerously mentally ill, they will no longer be able to buy ammunition in California. California would be the first state to require ammunition background checks at the point of sale.
  • Ensure People Prohibited from Owning Guns Do Not Possess Them: The initiative defines a clear firearms relinquishment process for those convicted of a felony or a violent misdemeanor.
  • Require Reporting Lost or Stolen Guns: The initiative requires firearm owners to notify law enforcement if their firearm has been lost or stolen. With the Safety for All initiative, California would join 11 other states and the City of Sacramento in requiring lost and/or stolen firearm reporting.
  • Share Data with Federal System on Prohibited People: The initiative mandates that California share data with the FBI/NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System).

California has long led the nation when it comes to passing the smart gun laws that save lives, and this ballot initiative furthers that leadership by keeping guns and ammunition away from dangerous people. We’re proud to stand with Lieutenant Governor Newsom in the fight to bring sanity back to America’s gun laws.

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Learn more about the ballot initiative at the Safety for All Act website.

Read the full text of the Safety for All Act.

The President is Right: Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough

 

We find ourselves, yet again, in the aftermath of another tragic school shooting–this time at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. A gunman opened fire on campus last Thursday, killing nine students and injuring seven others. The incident was the 142nd school shooting since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, and the 294th mass shooting in the United States this year–which means we’ve averaged more than one mass shooting per day.

And again we’re left wondering when the political agenda set by our lawmakers will follow the will of the people. We know the vast majority of Americans support commonsense solutions that save lives from gunfire. 92 percent of Americans support universal background checks—and 92 percent of gun owners do too. It’s time our laws and leadership reflected that support, a sentiment our executive director, Robyn Thomas, expressed in a recent New York Times op-ed.

Hours after last week’s tragedy, President Barack Obama spoke of the urgent need for smart gun laws like universal background checks and gun violence protective orders—we applaud his leadership, and the Law Center is proud to stand with President Obama in the fight to bring some sanity to our gun laws.

“And it will require that the American people, individually, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, when you decide to vote for somebody, are making a determination as to whether this cause of continuing death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision,” the president said on Thursday. “If you think this is a problem, then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.”

We agree—Americans must start holding their lawmakers accountable when it comes to passing the kind of legislation that could help prevent another Roseburg—or Charleston, or Lafayette, or Chattanooga, or any of the other 294 mass shootings this year—from happening.

  • Gun Violence Protective Orders: Also known as gun violence restraining orders, these laws empower families and law enforcement to petition a judge to remove guns from individuals who pose a risk to themselves or others. Shooters often exhibit dangerous warning signs and GVPO laws help keep guns away from people with the intent to harm. California passed a landmark GVPO law last year in response to the shooting at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
  • Limiting bulk purchase of guns and regulating ammunition sales: Firearms purchased in “multiple sales” are more frequently used in crimes, and mass shooters often stockpile ammunition, as seen in the 2012 mass shooting in an Aurora, CO cinema that left 12 dead and 28 injured.

The Law Center has made preventing mass shootings a top priority for over two decades—our organization was founded in the wake of a 1993 assault weapon rampage that killed eight and left six wounded. Our lawyers track gun laws in all 50 states, which we compile into our annual Gun Law State ScorecardIn 2014, we gave Oregon a D+ for their gun laws.

We already know what steps need to be taken to prevent the senseless killings that occur in communities across the United States. And while 117 new smart gun laws have been enacted in 39 states since Newtown, many lawmakers at the state and federal level continue to bow to the gun lobby’s deadly agenda. The Law Center is on the front lines of the battle against gun violence, and we need you to raise your voice in support of smart gun laws. Become a member today and join us in demanding more from the leaders that we elect to represent us—help us save lives. 

For more information about gun laws in Oregon, visit our policy page.

For a comprehensive analysis and state by state ranking of gun laws across the United States, visit our Gun Law State Scorecard.

Mid-Year Update: Tracking the Trends in Smart Gun Laws

Every year, our attorneys comb the thousands of gun bills introduced into state legislatures across the nation. We’re looking for the bills that will have an impact—both positive and negative—on the devastating effects of gun violence in America.

So far, in 2015, we’ve tracked, summarized, and analyzed 1160 gun bills, and there are still more to come—some states, like California, haven’t finished their legislative cycle yet.

Some standout trends we’ve noticed this year include:

  • Defensive Victories: We’ve seen significant momentum in defeating gun lobby priorities like allowing firearms in schools—campus carry bills were defeated in 14 states and another 15 bills allowing concealed weapons at K—12 schools failed, thanks to efforts by gun violence prevention advocates.

To get the full picture of 2015’s legislative trends, check out the Gun Law Trendwatch 2015 Mid-Year Update. And don’t forget–in December we’ll release an end-of-year summary of all the state legislative activity in 2015, as well as our annual Gun Law State Scorecard, which ranks the states based on the strength of their gun laws.