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

georgia-capitol-582

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.

Wrenn v. District of Columbia: Joining with the Brady Center to Defend the District’s Concealed Carry Permitting System

Overlooking-DC

Case Information: Wrenn v. District of Columbia, No. 15-7057 (D.C. Cir. Brief Filed Sept. 3, 2015)

At Issue: This cases challenges the constitutionality of the District’s regulations regarding the issuance of concealed carry permits. Similar to California law, the District requires that a CCW applicant show a specific need for a permit and a general self-defense interest is not enough to meet this burden. These “may-issue” systems are in place in several states across the country and are associated with a reduction in crime, including aggravated assault. However, the district court found that these laws violate the Second Amendment and the case is now on appeal with the D.C. Circuit.

Our Amicus Brief: The Law Center joined an amicus brief coordinated by the Brady Center that defends the constitutionality of the District’s concealed carry regime and argues that this regime does not violate the Second Amendment. The brief also focuses on the relevant evidence provided by social science research and the perspective of law enforcement with respect to the regulation of concealed carry in public places. The brief argues that there is a strong policy justification for a concealed carry permitting regime that requires applicants to demonstrate an elevated level of need before a permit may be issued.

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.

Choose Common Sense over Campus Carry

 

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.

 

Continue reading

No Permit, Big Problem

 

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

 

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.

State Gun Law Trendwatch



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 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.

READ TRENDWATCH 5.2.16

GUN LAW TRENDWATCH 5.2.16
GUN LAW TRENDWATCH 4.11.16
GUN LAW TRENDWATCH 3.28.16
GUN LAW TRENDWATCH 3.14.16
GUN LAW TRENDWATCH 2.29.16
GUN LAW TRENDWATCH 2.12.16
GUN LAW TRENDWATCH 2.1.16
GUN LAW TRENDWATCH 2015 YEAR-END UPDATE 12.10.15
GUN LAW TRENDWATCH MID-YEAR UPDATE 7.16.15
GUN LAW TRENDWATCH 6.1.15
GUN LAW TRENDWATCH 5.18.15
GUN LAW TRENDWATCH 5.4.15
GUN LAW TRENDWATCH 4.13.15
GUN LAW TRENDWATCH 3.30.15
GUN LAW TRENDWATCH 3.16.15
GUN LAW TRENDWATCH 3.2.15
GUN LAW TRENDWATCH 2.17.15
GUN LAW TRENDWATCH 2.2.15

Continue reading

District Court Strikes Down Washington, D.C. Ban on Public Carrying of Handguns

Overlooking-DC

For many years, the District of Columbia prohibited individuals from carrying handguns in public in order to protect District residents and visitors from gun violence. On July 26, 2014, however, a trial court judge interpreted the Second Amendment to allow individuals to carry guns outside of the home, and struck down the District’s policy. The judge’s ruling in the case, Palmer v. District of Columbia, allows residents and non-residents alike to carry handguns1. Fortunately,The ruling has been stayed for 90 days to allow the District to appeal the decision, or institute a licensing scheme that regulates the carrying of guns in public.

By far the most litigated Second Amendment issue since the Supreme Court’s controversial 2008 decision in Heller v. District of Columbia—which found that law-abiding, responsible individuals have a right to own an operable handgun for self-defense in the home—is whether the Second Amendment also protects a right to carry a firearm outside the home.2  As the Palmer court recognized, the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on this issue3, while a significant number of lower courts have concluded that the Second Amendment only protects the right to possess a gun for self-defense in the home. Nonetheless, since Heller, emboldened gun-lobby groups and individual plaintiffs have brought an onslaught of cases challenging laws that regulate a person’s ability to carry a gun outside of the home.

As of 2012, the only two jurisdictions prohibiting the practice of possessing guns outside the home were Washington, D.C. and Illinois. Illinois’ law was struck down in 2012 on Second Amendment grounds by the Seventh Circuit in Moore v. Madigan.4  The Moore court made clear, however, that laws regulating the possession of guns outside the home are permissible and the court suggested that regulations granting law enforcement discretion to issue concealed carry permits would be constitutional.

Continue reading

Notes
  1. 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101945. The Palmer court held that the District cannot prohibit non-residents from carrying firearms in the District solely because they are not District residents. The court reasoned that non-residents also have a Second Amendment right to carry guns outside the home for self-defense. However, in Peterson v. Martinez, 707 F.3d 1197, 1202 (10th Cir. 2013), the Tenth Circuit upheld Colorado’s law limiting concealed carry permits to Colorado residents. The court found the residency requirement to be constitutional and substantially related to the important government interest of protecting public safety. And in Dearth v. Holder, 641 F.3d 499, 500-501 (D.C. Cir. 2011), the District of Columbia Circuit Court also upheld a federal law requiring a gun purchaser to be a U.S. resident. ⤴︎
  2. 554 U.S. 570, 626 (2008). ⤴︎
  3. Without Supreme Court precedent on this issue, the Palmer decision relied heavily on a radical and extreme 2-1 decision by the Ninth Circuit in Peruta v. County of San Diego, 742 F.3d 1144 (9th Cir. 2014). In Peruta, a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considered whether a person’s generalized desire to carry a gun in public for self-defense qualifies as “good cause” for the issuance of concealed carry permits. San Diego’s policy was not to issue concealed carry permits unless the applicant could demonstrate a particularized need beyond a generalized desire for self-defense. The divided panel held that San Diego’s application of the good cause requirement violated the Second Amendment. The State of California has sought to intervene in the case and requested en banc review from a full Ninth Circuit panel of judges, which may result in the overturning of the original decision. Additionally, the Palmer court based its decision on Moore v. Madigan 708 F.3d 901, 903 (7th Cir. Ill. 2013). ⤴︎
  4. 708 F.3d 901, 903 (7th Cir. Ill. 2013). ⤴︎

Third Circuit Upholds New Jersey Concealed Carry Law

Threatening gesture - Revealing a handgun

Yesterday, the Third Circuit announced a major decision that will help promote public safety in New Jersey.  In Drake v. Filko, the court upheld a law that requires people who would like to have a concealed weapon permit to demonstrate a “justifiable need” to carry a handgun.  This requirement gives law enforcement the discretion to grant permits to those who legitimately need a concealed weapon, while allowing law enforcement to reject permit requests from people known to pose significant safety risks to the community (such as domestic abusers who have not yet been convicted of crimes).

In upholding this requirement, the court joined the First, Second, and Fourth Circuits which have upheld similar laws.

The court began by noting that the issue of whether the new individual Second Amendment right recognized in the controversial landmark Supreme Court case Heller v. District of Columbia extends outside of the home is unsettled.  However, the court observed that “[f]irearms have always been more heavily regulated in the public sphere” and that historical analysis does not lead “inevitably to the conclusion that the Second Amendment confers upon individuals a right to carry handguns in public.” Nevertheless, the court proceeded with its analysis on the assumption that the right does have some application outside the home.

The court went on to hold that the “justifiable need” requirement qualified as a “longstanding” regulation and therefore “presumptively lawful” under Heller.  The court reached this conclusion because New Jersey’s law had some sort of justifiable need requirement for concealed carry applications since the early 20th century.  This is the same time period that the first bans on felons possessing firearms were enacted, which the Supreme Court had found longstanding and therefore presumptively lawful in Heller. Thus, the court held that the justifiable need requirement was outside the scope of the Second Amendment and could be upheld on that basis alone.

Nevertheless, although it did not need to do so, the court found that given the inherently dangerous nature of handguns in public, the justifiable need requirement is reasonably related to the government’s interest in protecting public safety.  The court also rejected the plaintiffs’ extreme argument that this law restricts the individual’s Second Amendment rights in the same way that a “prior restraint” on speech restricts First Amendment rights.

Although one judge dissented from the panel’s ruling, even that judge rejected the more extreme arguments of the gun lobby.  He agreed that First Amendment prior restraint analysis should not be applied to restrictions on the public carrying of firearms. He also agreed that intermediate, rather than strict, was the appropriate level of scrutiny to apply, an acknowledgement that the legislature should have some discretion in how they choose to promote public safety.

This ruling is a well-reasoned and welcome step forward in keeping New Jersey residents safe.  In cases like this, the gun lobby has tried to use the courts to force all states to adopt a Florida or Texas style “shall issue” system where virtually anyone can walk the streets with a gun and law enforcement has no discretion at all.  Fortunately, as this case demonstrates, their efforts have been overwhelmingly rejected.  For more information on Second Amendment litigation, including the other circuit court decisions on concealed carry permits, please see our Post-Heller Litigation Summary.

Honoring Trayvon Martin

Trayvon-Martin-2

On Saturday, we were deeply disappointed by the news that George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin. Justice is not served when a man carrying a loaded, concealed handgun in public is allowed to stalk and kill an unarmed teenager without consequence.

Sadly, Florida’s extremely weak gun laws set the stage for Trayvon Martin’s senseless death. Under the state’s concealed weapons laws, George Zimmerman was issued a permit to carry a hidden gun, despite the fact that he had previously been arrested for assaulting a police officer and had a history of domestic violence. If Zimmerman had not been carrying a gun that night, Trayvon Martin would still be alive today.

Florida’s “shoot first” law only exacerbated the danger by removing Zimmerman’s duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense in public. These laws promote gun violence by shielding shooters from criminal liability for death or great bodily injury, even when such death or injury could have been avoided.

As a nation, we must learn from Trayvon Martin’s death that more guns in public do not make us safer, and use this tragedy as an opportunity to closely evaluate our nation’s gun laws.

As President Obama observed, the way to honor Trayvon Martin is to “ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis” and to focus on how we can prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future.

Preventing unnecessary gun deaths starts with education.

Learn more about your state’s concealed weapons policies or read our summary of “shoot first” laws for more information.