Press Release

2019 State & Local Legislative Outlook


TO  Interested Parties
FROM   Robin Lloyd, Director of Government Affairs, Giffords
DATE   December 14, 2018
RE   2019 State & Local Legislative Outlook  


Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, more than 280 gun laws have been passed in 45 states. In 2018 alone, 27 states passed 67 new gun safety laws. In 2019 Giffords will continue our work in states across the country to advance courageous gun violence prevention policies and defeat the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda.


Giffords will continue its work to support and pass new legislation at the state level to reduce gun violence. Building upon the tremendous advances made in 2018, we will be continuing our efforts to enact extreme risk laws in states across the country and obtain sustainable funding for evidence-based violence intervention and prevention programs. We will also continue our efforts to prevent domestic abusers from easily accessing weapons and our work in states to pass policies that will help reduce suicide, among other critical lifesaving policies.


Extreme risk protective order laws, also known as gun violence restraining orders, lethal violence protective orders, and “red flag” laws, allow families and household members, as well as law enforcement officers, to petition a court to remove an individual’s access to guns if he or she poses an imminent danger to self or others.

In 2018, Giffords worked with legislators and local leaders to pass extreme risk laws in states across the country. Following the Parkland shooting, eight states took bipartisan action to enact extreme risk laws, five of which were signed into law by Republican governors. Giffords worked with leaders in states like Florida, Vermont, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey to pass these extreme risk laws. Giffords also continued our efforts in Massachusetts and helped to enact an extreme risk law one year after Giffords gun safety experts Jenna Yuille and Allison Anderman testified in support of Massachusetts’s ERPO legislation. In 2018, Giffords also joined New York legislators and advocates several times in Albany in support of the New York bill.

Building upon the legislative success of 2018, Giffords will work with legislators and local leaders to pass extreme risk laws in New York, New Mexico, Maine, Colorado, Nevada, and Pennsylvania in 2019.


Each year, nearly 115,000 people in the United States are shot. Underserved neighborhoods bear the brunt of the gun violence epidemic—black men make up 6% of the nation’s population but account for more than half of gun homicide victims each year. It is crucial that young people feel safe not just from school shootings but also from the tragically routine violence that endangers young people in communities across America. Violence intervention programs have been shown to be effective at breaking the cycle of gun violence in communities that are most impacted. Research and case studies have demonstrated that through a combination of low-cost, community-oriented intervention programs and much-needed firearms policy reforms, gun violence rates in urban communities can be cut in half in as little as two years. Given these results, there is also likely to be a significant economic return on investment in urban gun violence prevention and intervention programs. In fact, the state of Massachusetts has already seen that for every $1 invested in their Safe and Successful Youth Initiative, the state saves an estimated $7. The solutions to solve this problem exist—we just need to implement them.

In December 2017 Giffords Law Center issued its second report on urban gun violence solutions, Investing in Intervention: The Critical Role of State-Level Support in Breaking the Cycle of Urban Gun Violence. Based on the evidence provided in that report, Giffords led an effort in 2018 to pass a bill in Maryland to establish a fund for violence intervention and prevention solutions, and also worked with lawmakers and advocates in Massachusetts to support additional funding for a new neighborhood-based violence prevention pilot program focused on high-risk youth. In 2019, Giffords will work on comprehensive legislation that will provide funding for evidence-based programs to meaningfully address urban gun violence in New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, and California.


Bump stocks and other similar devices are affixed to semi-automatic guns to simulate the rapid, continuous fire of an automatic firearm. In October 2017, a gunman in Las Vegas, Nevada, used multiple bump stocks to carry out the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Despite widespread bipartisan calls for bans on bump stocks, these devices are currently legal in most states and are not regulated by the federal government. However, eight states passed bans on bump stocks in the year following the Las Vegas shooting. In 2019, Giffords will work with leaders in states like Nevada to ban bump stocks.

Ghost guns and 3-D printed weapons will allow dangerous criminals to access lethal weapons that would be undetectable and untraceable. In 2018 Giffords led the effort to ban untraceable and undetectable weapons in New Jersey. Giffords will work with leaders in New York, Oregon, Maryland, and Delaware to ban these dangerous weapons in 2019.


Though federal law prohibits abusers who have been convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors and abusers subject to certain domestic violence protective orders from purchasing or possessing guns, there are significant gaps in our laws that put the lives of survivors at risk. Women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other developed countries, and more than half of all murders of women in America are committed with a gun. Further, women who are victims of abuse are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if that individual has access to a firearm. Laws to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers have experienced a tremendous amount of bipartisan support in states across the country. In 2019, Giffords will work with legislators in Texas and Arizona to advance bipartisan efforts in support of domestic violence and firearms legislation.


The background check loopholes constitute some of the most dangerous gaps in federal firearms laws today. Although federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks on prospective purchasers, it does not require unlicensed sellers to do so. A 2017 study estimated that 22% of US gun owners acquired their most recent firearm without a background check. Efforts to strengthen background check laws at the state level have had an impact in reducing gun violence, whereas states that do not require background checks on gun sales by unlicensed sellers have higher rates of gun violence. In 2019, Giffords will work with leaders in Maryland, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania to advance laws to strengthen state background checks.


Gun violence is a public health and public safety crisis, resulting in over 33,000 deaths and 80,000 non-fatal firearm injuries in the United States each year. However, federal funding for firearm violence research through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was virtually eliminated by Congress in 1996. Thus there is a major gap in existing research about the causes of firearm violence, the consequences of firearm violence, and the effectiveness of gun violence prevention and intervention strategies. In 2016, California attempted to fill that gap by establishing the first state-funded firearm violence research center at the University of California-Davis, which became operational in July of 2017. State-funded centers are intended to help fill the void left by the federal government and provide support for scientific research upon which effective gun violence prevention efforts can be based.

A number of states have expressed interest in legislation that would support gun violence research as a public safety issue. In 2018, Giffords joined Governor Phil Murphy in New Jersey for the announcement that $2 million would be awarded to Rutgers University to fund gun violence research. In 2019, Giffords will be working with legislators and leaders in Oregon, New Mexico, Washington, Hawaii, and New York in support of legislation and funding to advance gun violence research.


Violent extremists and hate groups often use firearms as tools of violence and intimidation. Recent mass shootings at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, an historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, and a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, were among the deadliest hate crimes ever committed in the United States, and among the deadliest mass shootings in our nation’s history. And the disturbing scenes we saw play out in the streets of Charlottesville in the summer of 2017 serve as yet another reminder of the hate that plagues our communities. But we know that these are just some of the most visible examples of a large and growing threat, as hate-fueled violence is on the rise across the country. In too many cases, the presence of a firearm turns ugly threats into deadly assaults. And yet, in most states, people convicted of violent hate crimes could currently pass a background check to acquire a gun. That must change.

In 2017, Giffords Law Center wrote and sponsored the California hate crimes bill that was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. Giffords also joined New York legislators in Albany at a press conference in support of the New York hate crimes bill. In 2019, Giffords will continue our work to pass hate crime bills in New York, Colorado, and Virginia.


The presence of a gun dangerously compounds the risk of impulsive acts of violence, especially suicide. Waiting periods, or “cooling off” laws, create an important window of time for gun purchasers to reconsider their intentions, which can lead to a change of heart and a saved life. In addition, waiting periods provide additional time for the completion of a thorough background check. States with waiting period laws for gun purchases have lower rates of suicide. Waiting periods have also been shown to reduce gun homicides. In 2019, Giffords will work with lawmakers and advocates to enact waiting periods in Vermont.


Harmful preemption laws allow the gun lobby to threaten lawsuits against cities and municipalities that pass responsible gun safety laws. These preemption policies have effectively allowed the gun lobby to prohibit municipalities from enacting gun laws that make sense for their communities. In 2019 Giffords will be working in Oregon in support of efforts to remove these harmful restrictions blocking gun safety laws.


Gun dealer licensing laws give state authorities and law enforcement the tools to encourage better business practices among federally licensed gun dealers, stem the flow of illegal gun trafficking by holding corrupt dealers accountable, and help keep guns out of the wrong hands. Giffords will be continuing our work in Illinois in support of a gun dealer licensing bill that will help curb gun trafficking in the state.


Giffords will vigorously defend states against legislation that would harm public safety. We expect the gun lobby to continue to push their dangerous agenda, attacking the laws that are keeping us safe and making it easier for more people to buy guns. We expect many states, including Arizona, Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, will attempt to advance policies that would weaken gun safety laws. Giffords will work in those states and with partners to prevent these harmful policies from becoming law.


The most dangerous gap in federal firearms laws today is the background check loophole. Although federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks on prospective purchasers, it does not require unlicensed sellers to do so. States that require background checks for all handgun sales or permits have fewer gun deaths per capita than states without that background check requirement. However, in spite of the evidence that background checks save lives, the gun lobby has been pushing states like Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska and North Carolina to repeal or weaken their background check or permitting systems.


Historically, nearly every state has enhanced the safety of its residents by requiring people to qualify for a permit in order to carry concealed firearms in public spaces. The gun lobby continues to pressure states to eliminate this fundamental safety standard, allowing people who have never passed a background check or fired a gun in their lives to carry hidden, loaded guns in public crowds as soon as they buy them. Twelve states currently allow unrestricted, permitless concealed carry. Giffords anticipates seeing renewed action by the gun lobby to advance this dangerous proposal in Iowa and Texas, as well as Virginia and North Carolina.


Allowing untrained people to carry a gun almost everywhere poses a serious threat to public safety. Eliminating or weakening restrictions on carrying loaded guns in public places makes it much harder for law enforcement to identify prohibited people, like felons and dangerous domestic abusers, who are illegally carrying guns in public. We can save lives by preserving and strengthening state concealed carry permitting systems, and limiting firearms in places like schools, public parks, and bars.


Local governments across the country recognize the need to regulate firearms to protect their constituents from gun violence. However, a large majority of states have passed overreaching preemption laws that have stripped local governments of the authority to regulate firearms, rendering cities and towns powerless to address the devastating effects of gun violence they witness firsthand in their communities. Giffords opposes legislation that would allow the gun lobby to threaten lawsuits against cities and municipalities that pass responsible gun safety laws. This type of policy has effectively allowed the gun lobby to prohibit municipalities from enacting gun laws that make sense for their communities.


Over the past few years the gun lobby has pursued bills that interfere with private property owners’ basic right to determine what is safe and reasonable for their own property. In these liability bills, businesses that do not permit concealed carry permit holders to carry handguns on their premises would be held liable for any damages that could have been prevented by an individual carrying a handgun. Giffords will defend against these harmful efforts to undermine private property owners’ rights to establish their own guidelines for the carrying of firearms.


In recent years, Giffords and Giffords Law Center have expanded our work at the local level. We work with local governments to enact measures that will help keep these jurisdictions safe, such as gun dealer regulations, safe storage ordinances, and laws regulating guns at public assemblies.


Although all firearms in the United States originate with licensed gun dealers, these dealers are subject to very little federal scrutiny. This lack of oversight, due to inadequate funding and gun lobby–backed legislation, leads to irresponsible gun dealers facing few or no consequences, even when their misconduct threatens the lives and safety of others.

In 2018, Giffords worked with the California cities of Sunnyvale and Healdsburg, and the Town of Moraga, to propose and craft ordinances regulating gun dealers. All three ordinances passed this year, with Moraga’s ordinance expected to be enacted in 2019. In 2019 Giffords will continue to support the Town of Moraga’s efforts and work with legislators and residents in support of gun dealer regulations.


Safe storage laws promote responsible gun-ownership by requiring gun owners to keep their firearms out of the reach of others, such as children or prohibited persons, who could use the weapon to deadly effect. These laws help prevent tragedies due to unintentional discharges, suicide, and gun theft by helping ensure firearms are only used by their rightful owners.

In 2018 Giffords worked with legislators and residents to pass safe storage ordinances in the following California jurisdictions: Moraga, Morgan Hill, Orinda, and Saratoga. The City of Berkeley is poised to enact a safe storage ordinance by the end of 2018. In 2019 Giffords will continue to move these ordinances forward in Lafayette, California; San Mateo County, California; and other jurisdictions that request assistance.


Giffords provided assistance to the City of Morgan Hill, California, on an ordinance that requires gun owners to report the loss or theft of a firearm to law enforcement within 48 hours. The gun lobby has threatened to sue the city over this ordinance. Giffords Law Center procured a prestigious litigation firm, Farella, Braun + Martel, to defend Morgan Hill on a pro bono basis.