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Giffords Law Center Gun Law Trendwatch: April 20, 2021

A Roundup and Analysis of the Latest State Firearm Legislation

In a Month Dominated by Gun Violence Headlines, Iowa Extremists Rush to Repeal Permitting and Background Checks Laws

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 gun extremists in Iowa attempting to repeal gun safety laws—and provide updates on significant gun safety and gun lobby bills as they move through state legislatures.

State of the States

Permitting and Background Check Laws

In the past month, our nation has been rocked by a string of high-profile mass shootings in Georgia, Colorado, California, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Texas, and Indianapolis. Fortunately, we have a White House committed to taking action on gun safety: on April 8th, President Biden announced meaningful steps his administration is taking to address the crisis of gun violence in America. Yet at the same time, gun rights extremists in Iowa rushed a dangerous omnibus bill (HB 756) intended to eliminate effective gun safety laws through the legislature.

HB 756 weakens gun safety in Iowa in a number of respects, but most notably, it repeals the state’s law that requires a person to obtain a permit and background check before purchasing a handgun. When Missouri repealed the same law, it saw a 25% increase in gun homicides and a 16% increase in gun suicides. Conversely, when Connecticut implemented a permit-to-purchase law, it saw a 40% decrease in gun homicides and 15% decrease in gun suicides. 

By rolling back the state’s permit-to-purchase, gun extremist legislators have also repealed background checks on private sales of handguns in Iowa as a background check was required to obtain a permit, and no other law in Iowa requires background checks on gun purchases from unlicensed sellers. Such a move is likely to be unpopular. A poll conducted in 2019 showed that 92% of Iowa gun owners support the state’s handgun background check law. Another 2020 poll of Iowa voters showed support for background checks on all gun sales at 79%. 

15%
Increase in violent crime due to concealed carry
Violent crime rates are 13–15% higher in states with weak concealed carry permitting laws than in states with strong permitting systems.

Source

John J. Donohue, Abhay Aneja, and Kyle D. Weber, “Right‐to‐Carry Laws and Violent Crime: A Comprehensive Assessment Using Panel Data and a State‐Level Synthetic Control Analysis,” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 16, no. 2 (2019): 198–247.

Another dangerous provision of HB 756 repeals a law that requires people carrying hidden, loaded guns in public to pass a background check and get a permit. Numerous academic studies show that the weaker a state’s laws regulating public carry, the more violent crime and homicides it has. Three other states with legislatures dominated by lawmakers backed by the NRA have also repealed concealed carry permitting this session: Montana, Utah, and Tennessee. Since 2014, 15 states have repealed their concealed carry permitting laws, bringing the total number of states allowing permitless carry to 19.

Despite the claims of the gun lobby, which dubs carrying guns in public without a background check  “constitutional carry,” laws prohibiting or strictly regulating the carrying of concealed, loaded weapons in public places were among the earliest gun laws adopted in the United States. It was only in the late 20th century that states began to grant law enforcement discretion to issue concealed carry permits to individuals who passed background checks and received firearm safety training. Repealing these laws in the name of constitutional rights is a modern, misguided, and radical phenomenon. 

Americans have long understood that state lawmakers beholden to the gun lobby will vote against their interests in favor of gun industry profits. Iowans deserve better.

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Gun Safety Spotlight

In the Wake of Another Mass Shooting, Colorado Legislature Passes Critical Gun Safety Bills

Two important gun safety bills were signed by Colorado’s governor yesterday: HB 1106 would require individuals to safely store their firearms when a child is likely to be present or when a gun owner lives with someone prohibited from possessing guns. SB 78, the Isabella Joy Thallas Act, would require gun owners to report the loss or theft of a firearm within five days. The bill is named after a young woman murdered with a gun stolen from a Denver police officer who never reported the theft. 

Between 2015 and 2019, more than 30,000 guns were stolen in Colorado. Guns from just four localities—Aurora, Denver, Fort Collins, and Adams County—were used in over 600 crimes across Colorado from 2010 to 2016. Nearly 10% of those involved serious violent crimes like robbery, assault, or homicide. In addition to helping law enforcement recover lost and stolen guns before they are used in crimes, laws like SB 78 help deter gun trafficking and prevent straw purchasing. 

Last month, Colorado was in the spotlight because of a horrific and preventable mass shooting in Boulder. This month, courageous legislators and Governor Jared Polis honor those victims by enacting meaningful and effective laws that will save lives from gun violence.

Gun Lobby Extremism

Gun Zealot Legislator Exploits Undocumented Immigrants to Oppose Background Checks Bill in Texas

On April 8, Texas took the unusual and positive step of giving a background checks bill (HB 118) a hearing in the House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee. According to a 2020 poll conducted by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, 79% of Texans, including 68% of Republicans, want all gun buyers to undergo a background check.

While the sponsor, Rep. Evelina Ortega, laid out a compelling, fact-based case for background checks, one gun extremist legislator on the committee, Matt Schaefer, objected to the bill on the grounds that an undocumented woman living in a border town would be unable to pass a background check and buy a gun. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Rep. Schaefer’s concern for the right of undocumented women to buy guns isn’t matched by concern for them being able to exercise other rights. He campaigned on repealing benefits for undocumented women, such as perinatal pregnancy care, and also voted for a bill that would require women who report domestic violence disclose their immigration status, making them subject to deportation. 

Texans should reject a representative who uses the most vulnerable among us to advance an extremist gun agenda while denying those same individuals basic human rights. Despite this display of craven hypocrisy, there is still hope that other committee members will pass this lifesaving bill out of committee.  

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Bills in Motion

In the first few months of 2021, courageous state legislators have introduced bills to strengthen background check requirements, fund proven community violence intervention programs, improve domestic violence prohibitions, and enact or strengthen extreme risk protection order laws in 32 states and the District of Columbia. Meanwhile, the gun lobby continues to push its dangerous guns in schools and permitless carry bills in dozens of states. We’re committed to helping state legislatures enact laws that will make our communities safer and push back against gun lobby legislation that will bring more guns to more places.

Gun Safety Bills

  • BACKGROUND CHECKS: Oregon HB 2543 passed a committee. Legislation to strengthen or enact background checks is pending in at least 22 states.
  • COMMUNITY VIOLENCE: New York SB 2503 was sent to the governor. Tennessee HB 994 passed a committee. California AB 1223 passed a committee and has a hearing 4/26. Currently, at least 15 states and the District of Columbia have bills pending that would allocate or protect funding for evidence-based violence prevention programs.
  • DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Virginia HB 1992 was enacted 4/15. California SB 538 passed a committee and has a hearing 4/27, and SB 320 was sent to the suspense file. Nevada AB 42 and Oregon SB 823 each passed a committee. Maine SB 336 has a hearing 4/15. Legislation to strengthen domestic violence laws is pending in at least 17 states and the District of Columbia.
  • EXTREME RISK PROTECTION ORDER: Connecticut HB 6355 passed a committee. Nevada SB 6 passed a committee. California SB 538 passed a committee and has a hearing 4/27 and AB 1057 has a hearing 4/20. Bills to enact or strengthen extreme risk protection order laws are pending in at least 19 states.

Gun Lobby Bills

  • GUNS IN SCHOOLS:Arkansas SB 161 was enacted 4/1 and HB 1327 was sent to the governor. Montana HB 572 was sent to concurrence. Oklahoma HB 2645 passed a senate committee. South Carolina HB 3096 passed the house. Missouri HB 86 passed committee. Ohio HB 227 and Texas SB 745 each had a hearing 4/15. Dangerous bills to allow guns in school or on campus are pending in at least 26 states.
  • PERMITLESS CARRY:Tennessee SB 765 was enacted 4/8 and HB 1388 passed a committee and has a hearing 4/21. North Dakota HB 1293 was sent to the governor. South Carolina HB 3096 passed the house. Louisiana SB 118 has a hearing 4/19.There are reckless permitless carry bills pending in at least 15 states.
  • STAND YOUR GROUND: Tennessee HB 50 was enacted 4/7. North Dakota HB 1498 was sent to the governor. Oklahoma HB 1662 passed a senate committee. New Hampshire HB 196 passed the house. There are Stand Your Ground laws pending in at least 15 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.

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