Giffords Law Center Gun Law Trendwatch: May 4, 2021
A Roundup and Analysis of the Latest State Firearm Legislation
What Happens When a City Commits to Police Reform and Community-Based Violence Intervention Strategies? Serious Crime Plummets.
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 police reform in Newark, New Jersey—and provide updates on significant gun safety and gun lobby bills as they move through state legislatures.
State of the States
In 2020, something happened in Newark, New Jersey, that was a first in recent history—law enforcement didn’t fire a single bullet over the course of the entire year. This milestone capped a five-year, 40% reduction in serious crime. It’s worth taking a closer look at how Newark got here, and how other cities can follow suit.
Jan 17, 2020
In 2014, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) concluded an investigation into the Newark Police Department (NPD) and found that it routinely violated the constitutional rights of residents with excessive force, racial bias, and corrupt practices. As Giffords Law Center explored in our policing report in January 2020, the link between racially biased, heavy-handed policing and gun violence is clear: when police over-enforce non-violent crimes against underserved communities while at the same time failing to protect residents from serious violence, communities lose trust in the system. A small minority choose to seek justice through retaliatory violence, and rates of violence increase.
Newark and DOJ settled the investigation with a consent decree that required NPD to, among other things, “engage constructively with the community to promote and strengthen partnerships and to achieve collaborative, ethical, and bias-free policing.” The consent decree also outlined numerous other reforms implementing the principles of violence intervention strategies, which have proven remarkably successful at reducing interpersonal gun violence in impacted communities. In 2020, New Jersey made its first major investment in community-led violence intervention programming, directing $20 million of federal funding towards hospital-based violence intervention programs. In 2021, Governor Murphy announced his plan to invest another $10 million dollars in these programs as part of a broader gun safety legislative agenda.
Community violence intervention strategies do not operate in a vacuum. These programs are impacted by a state’s other gun safety laws, including those that reduce the supply of guns and ensure people prohibited from firearm possession don’t have easy access to them. New Jersey has been and continues to be an all-around leader on gun safety. Its strong gun laws earned an A grade on our annual Gun Law Scorecard, and the state has the third-lowest gun death rate in the nation. In April, Governor Murphy announced a package of legislation that would:
- require gun dealers to record ammunition sales information in an electronic database
- raise the age to buy all firearms to 21
- require the gun industry to incorporate microstamping technology
- ban highly dangerous 50 caliber rifles
- require new residents to obtain a permit for guns they bring into the state
- make it easier to sue gun manufacturers when their guns are used to injure or kill others
- mandate that gun owners safely store unattended firearms
The progress that Newark specifically, and New Jersey generally, has made in combatting gun violence should inform the steps taken by other states. It’s vitally important that legislators muster the courage to confront broken policing systems and prioritize the safety of communities over unlimited gun rights.
JOIN THE FIGHT
Nearly 40,000 Americans lose their lives to gun violence every year. Giffords Law Center is leading the fight to save lives by championing gun safety policies and holding the gun lobby accountable. Will you join us?
Gun Safety Spotlight
Oregon Takes Comprehensive Approach to Gun Safety
Portland, Oregon, was in the national spotlight for much of 2020 when protesters for racial justice clashed with white supremacists, as well as federal and local law enforcement. In April, the city responded to calls for reform by investing a historic $6 million into community violence intervention programs and police reform efforts.
Like New Jersey, state lawmakers are also taking action to ensure guns don’t end up in the hands of those prohibited from having them. A bill (HB 2543) that would close the “Charleston Loophole” by prohibiting the transfer of a firearm until a background check clears has had a hearing and is waiting for a committee vote. A bill that would help disarm people convicted of domestic violence and stalking (SB 823) has passed a committee.
Oregon voters enacted a strong gun safety ballot initiative in 2022 and the state has meaningfully reformed its gun laws in recent years. Oregon’s laws are still generally weaker than its neighbors in CA and WA, however.
Another bill that has cleared its house of origin (SB 554) would make gun owners civilly liable when a minor accesses a firearm that was not safely stored. An amended version of the bill would also prohibit guns in state capitol buildings, as well as repeal a law that prohibits K-12 schools and colleges and universities from prohibiting or regulating guns on campus.
These bills would represent meaningful change for Oregon, which is currently in the minority of states with no law penalizing adults who allow minors unsupervised access to guns. The state would also become the fourth in the nation to prohibit a gun transfer until a background check clears. Despite gun rights fanatics’ best efforts to intimidate and threaten lawmakers, progress is on the horizon in Oregon.
Gun Lobby Extremism
Two Far-Right Governors, Two Different Outcomes for a Trademark NRA Policy
On April 23rd, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed one of the gun lobby’s signature bills. SB 298 would have made state and local law enforcement officers criminally liable for helping to enforce federal laws that, among other things, regulate the possession of machine guns and prohibit gun possession by people convicted of felonies.
In a message that accompanied his veto, Governor Hutchinson stated “This bill . . . will jeopardize hundreds of federal cases against violent criminals. . . . [It also] creates ambiguity and uncertainty in our state’s firearms laws, and it jeopardizes the essential partnership between state and federal law enforcement agencies on critical missions that ensure the safety of Arkansans.”
That same day, Montana’s governor signed a similar bill (HB 258) that would also prohibit local and state law enforcement from enforcing federal gun laws, such as those that prohibit people who commit domestic violence from accessing firearms. Unlike his counterpart in Arkansas, Governor Gianforte tweeted that he “proudly signed [a] law prohibiting federal overreach into our Second Amendment-protected rights, including any federal ban on firearms.”
Despite his claims, Governor Gianforte isn’t protecting the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court has held that federal laws such as those that prohibit gun access by people who commit domestic violence are consistent with the Second Amendment. As Governor Hutchinson correctly noted, laws like the one signed in Montana hamper law enforcement and make it easier for prohibited people to arm themselves.
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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: Legislation to strengthen or enact background checks is pending in at least 21 states.
- COMMUNITY VIOLENCE: New York SB 2503 was enacted 4/19 and AB 3006 was enacted 4/16. Massachusetts HB 4000 passed the house. Connecticut HB 6439 passed its second committee. 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: Nevada AB 42 passed the assembly. California SB 538 passed a second committee and has a hearing 5/10. Colorado HB 1225 passed a committee. Legislation to strengthen domestic violence laws is pending in at least 19 states and the District of Columbia.
- EXTREME RISK PROTECTION ORDER: Nevada SB 6 passed the senate. California SB 538 passed its second committee and has a hearing 5/10, and AB 1057 passed a committee and has a hearing 5/5. Bills to enact or strengthen extreme risk protection order laws are pending in at least 20 states.
Gun Lobby Bills
- GUNS IN SCHOOLS: Arkansas HB 1327 and North Dakota HB 1463 were enacted 4/19. Montana HB 572 was sent to the governor. Oklahoma HB 2645 was sent to concurrence. Texas HB 1788 and HB 781 passed the house and SB 741 and SB 838 each passed a committee. Alabama HB 405 passed a committee. Dangerous bills to allow guns in school or on campus are pending in at least 23 states.
- PERMITLESS CARRY: North Dakota HB 1293 was enacted 4/21. Arkansas HB 1898 was enacted 4/27. Alabama HB 405 passed a committee. Texas HB 1927 passed a senate committee and HB 1911 passed a committee. Louisiana HB 118 passed the senate and HB 596 passed a committee. There are reckless permitless carry bills pending in at least 14 states.
- STAND YOUR GROUND: North Dakota HB 1498 was enacted 4/19. Arkansas HB 1898 was enacted 4/27. Oklahoma SB 925 was sent to concurrence. There are Stand Your Ground laws pending in at least 14 states.
HERE TO HELP
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