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Year-End Trendwatch: 2019 Was a Record Year for Gun Safety

In 2019, states led efforts to invest in proven solutions to community violence as legislators expanded focus beyond mass shootings. Our year-end edition of  Gun Law Trendwatch  breaks down what you need to know.

Our gun violence epidemic looms so large in public consciousness that parents across the country are afraid to send their children to school. While school shootings are a devastating and uniquely American phenomenon, too little attention is paid to the children in underserved communities whose greatest risk of gun violence isn’t in the classroom, but on the walk to and from school.

For years, violence in our cities has been dismissed as inevitable—despite the existence of evidence-based solutions like the ones implemented in Oakland, which helped cut shootings in half in just six years.

By investing in programs proven to save lives, cities and states can generate enormous savings for taxpayers. The cities of Boston and Springfield, Massachusetts, saved an estimated $15 million between 2012 and 2013 by investing $2 million in local violence reduction programming. For too long, well-funded group violence intervention programs like the ones in Oakland and Boston were the exception, not the norm.

That started to change in 2019, when a growing number of states invested a record amount of funding for violence intervention and prevention programs. California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia invested most heavily, directing a total of $132 million towards local violence reduction efforts.

This promising trend is reflective of increasing momentum within the gun safety movement in recent years. In the past 22 months, 32 states and DC have passed 137 bills, including 16 states with Republican governors. In the 2019 state legislative cycle alone, 23 states and DC have signed 70 gun safety bills into law.

 Read the full roundup here, or check out this summary of where gun safety legislation stands in states around the country today.

Gun Violence Prevention Bills

 Four states enacted laws that add a background check requirement or improve on an existing background check law:

  • New Mexico SB 8
  • Nevada SB 143
  • New York SB 2374 and AB 1213
  • Washington HB 1465

 Four states strengthened laws that help keep unattended guns out of the hands of minors:

  • California SB 172
  • Connecticut HB 7218
  • Nevada AB 291
  • New York SB 2450

 Nine states increased funding to help scale up evidence-based community gun violence reduction strategies:

  • California AB 74 and AB 1603
  • Illinois SB 262
  • Connecticut HB 7424
  • Massachusetts HB 4000
  • Nebraska LB 294
  • New York AB 2003
  • Rhode Island HB 5151
  • Both New Jersey and Virginia directed millions of dollars in federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding to community violence reduction strategies.

 Six states enacted laws that help keep firearms away from domestic abusers:

  • Arkansas HB 1851
  • California AB 164
  • Louisiana HB 279
  • New Mexico SB 328
  • Oregon HB 2013
  • Washington HB 1225, HB 1517, and HB 1786

 Seven states and DC enacted or strengthened extreme risk protection order laws:

  • California AB 12, AB 61, AB 339, and AB 1493
  • Colorado HB 1177
  • District of Columbia B22-0588 and B23-0286
  • Hawaii SB 1466
  • Indiana HB 1651
  • Nevada AB 291
  • New York SB 2451
  • Washington SB 5027

Defeated Gun Lobby Bills

This year, bills to repeal concealed carry permit requirements—a gun lobby priority—failed in Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

The gun lobby continually attempts to force colleges and universities to allow guns on campus. Campus carry bills failed in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

After school shootings, gun lobby–backed legislators predictably call for laws arming teachers and other civilians. This year, bills to allow guns in K–12 schools failed in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, and Wyoming.

Defensive Victory Highlights

While gun safety advocates made tremendous gains in 2019, the gun lobby continued its push to weaken gun laws. America’s gun violence epidemic is fueled by too many guns and too few laws, yet year after year, the gun lobby promotes legislation that expands gun access among individuals at risk of harming themselves or others.

In 2019, gun advocates pushed states to repeal critical laws that require a permit and background check to carry a gun in public and lobbied to recklessly arm teachers. Most of the gun lobby’s agenda was thwarted by courageous legislators and advocates, as well as strong public support for gun safety. This progress in the fight to save lives will continue in 2020 and beyond.

 About Trendwatch: Distributed biweekly during the state legislative cycle,  Gun Law Trendwatch rounds up and analyzes trends in state gun legislation, documents important victories, and monitors the gun lobby’s activity in legislatures across the United States.