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Giffords Law Center Gun Law Trendwatch: March 9, 2021

A Roundup and Analysis of the Latest State Firearm Legislation

Extremist legislators respond to armed protests and Capitol attack with bills to weaken restrictions on guns in public.

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 the rapid spread of permitless carry in states around the country—and provide updates on significant gun safety and gun lobby bills as they move through state legislatures.

State of the States

The Gun Lobby Continues to Advance its Reckless Priorities

Last Thursday, the House canceled its session due to a reported threat of another assault on the Capitol. And the Capitol insurrection on January 6th was far from the only attack on our democracy in recent months. Last year, armed protesters stormed Michigan’s capitol building and an individual was shot and killed at the Washington State capitol. But these terrifying events haven’t made the gun lobby and the elected officials in its pocket rethink the wisdom of bringing more guns into public spaces. 

Gun activists have long set their sights on repealing laws that require people carrying hidden, loaded guns in public to obtain a permit. Since 2014, 12 states have eliminated the permit-to-carry requirement, bringing the total number of permitless carry states to 16. 

11%
Gun homicide increase due to concealed carry
Weak concealed carry permitting laws are associated with 11% higher handgun homicide rates than states with strong permitting systems.

Source

Michael Siegel, et al., “Easiness of Legal Access to Concealed Firearm Permits and Homicide Rates in the United States,” American Journal of Public Health 107, no. 12 (2017): 1923–1929.

State legislators across the country have introduced dozens of bills this session to weaken laws regulating guns in public, despite the data that shows when more people carry guns in public, violent crime increases. Montana’s legislature and governor have already enacted an omnibus bill to expand the carrying of firearms in public spaces, including the capitol building (HB 102) and 12 additional states have introduced these reckless bills. Permitless carry bills in three states—Indiana HB 1369, Tennessee HB 18, and Nebraska (L 236)—are on the move.

Another gun lobby priority is arming teachers, parents, visitors, and staff of K-12 schools and college campuses. Despite what gun extremists claim, bringing guns onto campuses will lead to more gun deaths and injuries, not fewer. Shootings are more common when guns are present, while defensive uses of guns are rare. Guns on college campuses are also associated with greater alcohol misuse and more gun threats.  

Despite these dangers, 30 states have introduced legislation that would allow guns on K-12 campuses and institutions of higher education. Montana enacted this policy in 2021 (HB 102), while Arizona (HB 2840), North Carolina (SB 43), Oklahoma (HB 2645 and SB 767), and Utah (HB 216) are also moving bills forward.

The presence of guns is also particularly dangerous at locations where people consume alcohol, like bars, or where tensions can flare, such as courthouses. Guns are also problematic in places where their presence may chill First Amendment rights, such as at polling places and legislative buildings, and in historical targets of violence, such as churches and temples. Many states wisely prohibit guns in such locations. Yet legislators in 19 states are using the thoroughly debunked narrative that “gun-free zones” invite mass shootings, in an attempt  to weaken these restrictions and allow guns in bars, houses of worship, courthouses, police stations, and governmental buildings, among others. 

The vast majority of Americans who want to see reasonable limits on guns must continue to demand that their legislators summon the courage to reject these dangerous bills that will put American lives at risk.

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SPOTLIGHT

GUN LAW SCORECARD

The data is clear: states with stronger gun laws have less gun violence. See how your state compares in our annual ranking.

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Gun Safety Spotlight

Votes for Gun Safety Continue to Pay Dividends in Virginia

For decades, conservative majorities in Virginia’s General Assembly blocked even the most basic, commonsense gun safety laws, earning Virginia a “D” year after year on Giffords Law Center’s Annual Gun Law Scorecard. Virginia’s relatively weak laws fueled gun violence and gun trafficking in the Commonwealth: from 2016 to 2019, Virginia’s gun death rate was just above the astonishingly high US average. 

In 2019, Virginians made it clear that they’d had enough and flipped control of the legislature for the first time in over 20 years. In 2020, Virginia enacted a slate of gun safety laws, including universal background checks, an extreme risk protection order, domestic violence protections, and many more. The state also made a substantial investment in community-based violence intervention and prevention programs, all of which led to the state raising its grade from a D to a B on this year’s Scorecard.

With a gun safety majority still representing Virginians, the state is posed to have another exceptional year. Virginia has already enacted a law that would give law enforcement more time to conduct a full background check on a gun purchaser (HB 2128). Bills that would prohibit guns in the state capitol complex (HB 2295 and SB 1381), state-owned buildings (SB 1381), and areas where voting and election activity is taking place (HB 2081) are headed to the governor for signature, as are bills that would allow school districts to ban guns on their properties (HB 1909) and prohibit people convicted of domestic violence crimes from possessing guns (HB 1992).

Virginia has shown us that gun safety voters have immense power to change the trajectory of their state. Americans can and should follow their lead and demand that legislators do their bidding, not the gun lobby’s.

Gun Lobby Extremism

Missouri Gun Extremist Thinks Guns are More Deserving of Discrimination Protections than People

Missouri, a state that allows sexual orientation and gender-based discrimination in housing, employment, public accomodations, education, and healthcare, has a bill pending that would prohibit a public entity from entering into a contract with a company unless it certifies that it does not engage in discrimination against firearms businesses (SB 492). This bill was introduced by Missouri State Senator Rick Brattin, who in 2017 fought a bill to prevent sexual identity and gender-based discrimination, stating that there was a distinction between being gay and being human. 

Research overwhelmingly shows that discrimination against LGBTQAI+ individuals has negative impacts on their physical and mental health, and the suicide risk for queer and gender-nonconforming youth is much greater than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. Yet despite this, State Senator Brattin has determined that it’s the gun industry that needs protection from discrimination. 

MEDIA REQUESTS

Our experts can speak to the full spectrum of gun violence prevention issues. Have a question? Email us at media@giffords.org.

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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 33 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: Virginia HB 2128 was enacted February 25. Maryland HB 4 and SB 208 were enacted February 12 and February 11, respectively. Oregon HB 2543 had a hearing on 3/4. Legislation to strengthen or enact background checks is pending in at least 21 states.
  • COMMUNITY VIOLENCE: Maryland SB 708 was enacted February 11. Connecticut HB 6034 had a hearing on 3/2 and HB 6439 had hearings 3/1, 3/2, 3/3, 3/4, and 3/9. Currently, at least 16 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 sent to the governor. Iowa HB 450 and SB 428 each passed a committee. Illinois HB 54 had a hearing on 3/2. Missouri HB 473 had a hearing 3/8. Legislation to strengthen domestic violence laws is pending in at least 19 states and the District of Columbia.
  • EXTREME RISK PROTECTION ORDER: New Mexico HB 193 passed a committee. Connecticut HB 6355 had a hearing 3/5. Bills to enact or strengthen extreme risk protection order laws are pending in at least 17 states and the District of Columbia.

Gun Lobby Bills

  • GUNS IN SCHOOLS: Utah HB 216 was sent to the governor. Arizona HB 2840, Montana HB 572, and North Carolina SB 43 each passed their first chamber. Oklahoma HB 2588 and HB 2645 each passed a committee. Dangerous bills to allow guns in school or on campus are pending in at least 30 states.
  • PERMITLESS CARRY: North Dakota HB 1293 passed the house. Tennessee SB 765 passed a committee. There are reckless permitless carry bills pending in at least 13 states.
  • STAND YOUR GROUND: Arkansas SB 24 was enacted March 3. Utah HB 227 was sent to the governor. South Dakota HB 1212 passed a senate committee. North Dakota HB 1498 and New Hampshire HB 197 each passed the house. Oklahoma HB 1662 and Tennessee HB 50 each passed a committee. 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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