Protecting Strong Gun Laws: The Supreme Court Leaves Lower Court Victories Untouched

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In the last eight years, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected more than 70 cases seeking to expand the very limited right defined in the unprecedented Second Amendment case, District of Columbia v. Heller. By repeatedly declining to review lower court decisions upholding federal, state, and local gun laws, the Supreme Court has maintained important limitations on the Second Amendment and has reconfirmed that the Amendment is not an obstacle to smart gun laws that keep our communities safe from gun violence.

Since the Court’s decision in the Heller case 2008, lower courts across the country have been inundated with costly and time-consuming challenges to state and local gun laws.  However, lower courts have consistently upheld these laws, noting that many of these laws have been successful at protecting people from gun violence and keeping guns out of the hands of criminals while still allowing law-abiding citizens to keep guns in their homes for self defense.  Since 2008, there have been over 1,090 Second Amendment cases challenging gun laws nationwide, with an overwhelming majority—94%—of the lower court decisions upholding those laws.

Many of these Second Amendment challenges to gun laws make their way to the Supreme Court.  However, the Court has refused to hear these cases,1 leaving lower court decisions upholding the laws intact and keeping strong gun laws on the books.  For example, the Supreme Court has refused to hear cases that:

Notes
  1. In 2010, the Court decided McDonald v. City of Chicago, which held that the right recognized in Heller extends to state and local governments.  That case involved a Chicago law nearly identical to the one struck down in Heller and did not expand the substantive scope of the Second Amendment.

New California laws prohibit the open carrying of unloaded rifles and shotguns and protect domestic violence victims

California has a history of enacting some of the strongest gun laws in the nation. This year, Governor Brown signed two new measures to improve upon the state’s laws by helping to protect Californians from gun violence in public and in their homes. On September 28th, the governor signed AB 1527. The new law prohibits the open carrying of unloaded rifles and shotguns in public.  After a similar measure banning the open carrying of unloaded handguns was enacted last year, members of the so-called “open carry movement” responded by openly carrying rifles and shotguns at shopping malls, beach areas and other crowded public places.  This activity greatly alarmed the public and law enforcement statewide, resulting in the new measure.  The open carrying of all firearms is now prohibited in public places in California. The Law Center supported both the handgun and long gun open carry bans.

One day later, Governor Brown signed SB 1433, which will help disarm domestic abusers.  This law will require certain courts that issue protective orders to cross-reference state firearm records to determine whether a domestic abuser owns a firearm. If records indicate that a batterer is also a gun owner, law enforcement must request that the firearms be relinquished when serving the protective order. The Law Center supported this measure. Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abusers if an abuser owns a firearm. Strong procedures to facilitate the relinquishment of firearms by domestic abusers are absolutely critical.

Want to see more success stories? You can find them here.

Lost & Stolen Reporting Bill Passes the California Senate

Yesterday, our priority bill to combat illegal gun trafficking and keep guns out of the wrong hands passed the California State Senate by a vote of 23-14.  Co-sponsored by the Law Center, SB 1366 (DeSaulnier) would require gun owners to alert local law enforcement when their firearms are lost or stolen, providing law enforcement with a much-needed tool to curb gun trafficking. SB 1366 now proceeds to the Assembly. Continue reading

Success Story: California Enacts Three Strong Gun Laws

Three important legislative victories were won in California in October 2011:

LONG GUN RECORDS

WHAT HAPPENED?
Thanks to an irresponsible law pushed through by the gun lobby many years ago, the California Department of Justice has been forced to destroy long gun sales records. This requirement has hampered law enforcement efforts to investigate gun crimes and disarm dangerous criminals. The requirement to destroy long gun records was repealed by LCAV-sponsored bill AB 809 (Feuer).

HOW SAFETY WINS
Long gun sales records will now be maintained in a database, like handgun sales records, and will provide a useful tool for law enforcement. Sales records contain important information about a firearm, who purchased it, and who sold it.  This information is critical to law enforcement charged with tracing the ownership of firearms recovered in crimes.

BANNING OPEN CARRY

WHAT HAPPENED?
After members of California’s open carry movement began staging public gatherings at which groups of gun owners carried unloaded handguns openly in public, Californians became alarmed. The California Police Chiefs Association, concerned about the risk to public safety, sponsored AB 144 (Portantino). The newly enacted law bans open carrying of unloaded handguns in a public place or on a public street.

HOW SAFETY WINS
Openly carrying handguns in public — intimidating behavior that puts the public at risk — is no longer permitted in California.

FUNDING TO DISARM PROHIBITED PERSONS

WHAT HAPPENED?
The California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) is tasked with disarming persons who are prohibited from possessing a firearm. SB 819 (Leno), allows DOJ to pay for this effort by using funds generated when firearms are sold.

HOW SAFETY WINS
This will greatly enhance DOJ’s ability to take guns out of the hands of convicted felons, domestic abusers and the mentally ill. DOJ has already identified over 18,000 individuals in California who are recorded owners of handguns and also legally prohibited from possessing firearms.  This additional funding will help DOJ take action to disarm these individuals.

Major Victories in California: Governor Brown Signs Three Crucial Bills to Prevent Gun Violence!

The Law Center applauds California Governor Jerry Brown for signing three important pieces of legislation to help keep communities across California safe from gun violence. Governor Brown signed:

  • AB 809 (Feuer), co-sponsored by the Law Center, which will help law enforcement solve and prevent gun crimes by requiring the California Department of Justice to retain copies of sales records for rifles and shotguns, as it already does for handguns;
  • AB 144 (Portantino), which will prohibit the open carrying of unloaded handguns in public places statewide; and
  • SB 819 (Leno), which will enable the Department of Justice to use firearm sales fees to fund programs to disarm convicted criminals and the mentally ill

The governor’s signing of these three bills is a major victory for public safety in California. We commend Assemblymember Feuer, Assemblymember Portantino, and Senator Leno for their outstanding leadership on these critical issues, and we are grateful for the tireless efforts of our coalition partners statewide.

We also thank you, our members and supporters, for your calls to the Governor urging him to sign AB 809. Your voice makes a difference!

Your support helps ensure that California continues to lead the nation in strong laws to prevent gun violence.