Giffords Law Center Gun Law Trendwatch: April 12, 2022
A Roundup and Analysis of the Latest State Firearm Legislation
Washington and Colorado Passed Laws to Protect Democratic Activities from Armed Intimidation. More States Must Follow Suit
Every other week during the state legislative cycle, Gun Law Trendwatch breaks down trends in the gun violence prevention universe. We take an in-depth look at a topic of particular interest to legislators and advocates—this week it’s how states are taking action to protect democratic activities from armed intimidation—and provide updates on significant gun safety and gun lobby bills as they move through state legislatures.
State of the States
States Are Safeguarding Democratic Activities and the Spaces Where They Occur
Earlier this year, the Department of Justice released a report documenting over 850 reports of threats to election officials. Another news report noted that the county clerk in Adams County, Colorado, occasionally wears a bulletproof vest to work due to threats his office received in 2020. Furthermore, a lawsuit filed in March alleges that, in Colorado, pro-Trump, armed activists are going door-to-door in areas where large numbers of people of color reside asking them how they voted and photographing their homes.
The increased use of guns over the past two years to suppress democratic activities such as voting, election administration, and legislating has motivated states to respond with laws to safeguard these activities and the spaces where they occur.
Prior to 2020, only six states generally prohibited guns at the polls: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. In 2021, Virginia became the seventh. This year, another two states passed laws protecting voters and election workers from armed intimidation—Washington (HB 1630) and Colorado (HB 1086)—and more states are following in their path.
A Massachusetts bill (SB 1568) that has passed a committee would also prohibit guns at polling locations and ballot counting centers. Two bills have also been introduced in Maryland (HB 30 and SB 329) that would prohibit firearms at the polls.
In 2021, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington prohibited some or all guns at the state capitol. Virginia’s bill also prohibited guns in state-owned buildings or offices where state employees work regularly. Building on that success, in 2022, Washington passed a law prohibiting openly carried firearms in local government buildings where meetings or hearings are held, and prohibiting all firearms at school board meetings (HB 1630). Two bills in Massachusetts (HB 2505 and SB 1568) would strengthen democracy protections by prohibiting guns in the state house and at demonstrations that occur in government buildings. Both bills have passed committees.
While protecting America’s nearly 250 year history of democracy from extremism is complex, one thing is clear—prohibiting guns at the polls, ballot counting centers, state capitol buildings, and meetings of legislative bodies is common sense. Legislators must act now to pass these laws ahead of the 2022 midterms.
JOIN THE FIGHT
Gun violence costs our nation 40,000 lives each year. We can’t sit back as politicians fail to act tragedy after tragedy. Giffords Law Center brings the fight to save lives to communities, statehouses, and courts across the country—will you stand with us?
Gun Safety Spotlight
Maryland Enacts Crucial Bill to Prevent Lost and Stolen Firearms
In 2016, an individual used a crowbar to break the glass of a gun store in Wisconsin and, in just 20 seconds, made off with nine handguns. The Chicago Tribune traced the journey of one of the stolen handguns over the course of 20 months and discovered that it was used in 27 separate shootings, including two murders. Also in 2016, a “smash and grab” burglary caught on videotape showed individuals stealing over 50 handguns and rifles in under three minutes from a Texas gun store.
Smash and grab thefts—when assailants use a car or truck to break down the front door or windows of a store to gain access—are an increasingly common way of stealing guns.
Apr 08, 2022
In 2021, over 10,000 guns were reported lost or stolen from federally licensed gun dealers (FFLs). Because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) relies on gun dealers to self-report lost and stolen guns, the true number is likely higher. No federal law requires gun dealers to secure their inventory to protect against loss or theft, and only six states and the District of Columbia require dealers to take particular security measures.
Maryland, a state in which dealers reported 152 lost or stolen guns in 2021, has enacted a bill (HB 1021) that mandates indoor and outdoor recording devices, bars and screens to prevent unlawful entry, alarm systems, and, in some cases, physical barriers to prevent smash and grabs. It also requires that dealers store their inventory in a gun safe, vault, or other protected area when their business is closed. Although Republican Governor Larry Hogan vetoed the measure, the legislature overrode the veto to pass the bill into law.
Lost and stolen guns are a major source of guns used to commit crimes. Federal and state legislators must do more to protect the public and require gun dealers to take reasonable measures to prevent these incidents.
Gun Lobby Extremism
While Road Rage Shootings Are Up, West Virginia Enacts a Law to Allow Loaded Long Guns in Cars
Feb 17, 2022
Consistent with the gun lobby’s profit-driven motive of bringing guns into all aspects of American life, over the past decade, states with legislatures controlled by gun extremists have been weakening or eliminating laws that regulate guns in public.
On March 9, West Virginia passed a bill (HB 4048) that allows individuals to keep loaded rifles and shotguns in their vehicles. Meanwhile, 2021 was the deadliest year on record in the US for road rage incidents involving firearms. According to research by Everytown for Gun Safety, in 2021 alone, over 500 people lost their lives or were shot and injured in more than 700 road rage incidents.
Having an accessible, loaded firearm in a vehicle is a recipe for disaster in a road rage incident. In addition to the parties involved, road rage involving guns puts innocent bystanders—oftenchildren—at risk of being shot. West Virginia’s law is undeniably a step in the wrong direction for public safety.
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Bills in Motion
In the first few weeks of 2022, courageous state legislators have introduced bills to strengthen background check requirements, fund proven community violence intervention programs, improve domestic violence prohibitions, and regulate or prohibit ghost guns in 30 states. Meanwhile, the gun lobby continues to push its dangerous guns in schools and permitless carry bills in over a dozen states. We’re committed to helping state legislatures enact laws that will make our communities safer and push back against harmful gun lobby legislation.
Gun Safety Bills
- BACKGROUND CHECKS: Vermont SB 4 was enacted. Illinois HB 1091 has passed a senate committee. At least nine states have bills pending that would require all gun buyers to be subject to background checks, or would strengthen existing background check laws.
- COMMUNITY VIOLENCE: Washington SB 5693 was enacted. California AB 2253 has a hearing on 4/26 and AB 2697 has a hearing on 4/19. Both bills have passed committees. Colorado SB 145 has passed a committee. Connecticut HB 5037, HB 5399, SB 16 and SB 477 have each passed committees. Maryland SB 290 has passed the legislature and SB 350 has passed the senate and a house committee. Minnesota HB 4200 has passed a committee. Virginia SB 487 is in conference. At least 16 states and the District of Columbia have bills pending that relate to the allocation, protection, or administration of funding for evidence-based violence prevention programs.
- DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Vermont SB 4 was enacted. Connecticut SB 16 passed a committee. Iowa HB 825 is eligible to be sent to the governor. Maine SB 551a has passed a committee. Legislation to strengthen domestic violence laws is pending in at least 15 states.
- GHOST GUNS: Maryland HB 425 and SB 387 were enacted. California AB 1621 has a hearing on 4/19, SB 1327 will be heard on 4/26, and AB 2156 and AB 2552 have passed committees. Connecticut SB 16 has passed a committee. Illinois HB 4383, SA2 was sent to the governor. Massachusetts HB 2491 has passed a committee. Bills that would regulate or prohibit untraceable firearms are pending in at least 11 states and the District of Columbia.
Gun Lobby Bills
- GUNS IN SCHOOLS: Arizona HB 2448 has passed a senate committee. Wisconsin AB 495 has been sent to the governor. Dangerous bills to allow guns in school or on campus are pending in at least 16 states.
- PERMITLESS CARRY: Georgia SB 319 and Indiana HB 1296 were enacted. There are reckless permitless carry bills pending in at least five states.
- STAND YOUR GROUND: Missouri HB 2118 passed a committee. Bills that make it easy to use deadly force in public and evade justice are pending in at least 11 states.
- LIABILITY FOR ENFORCING GUN LAWS: Bills that would make law enforcement officers or other state and local government officials personally liable for enforcing federal gun laws are pending in at least seven states.
HERE TO HELP
Interested in partnering with us to draft, enact, or implement lifesaving gun safety legislation in your community? Our attorneys provide free assistance to lawmakers, public officials, and advocates working toward solutions to the gun violence crisis.CONTACT US
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