2023 State and Local Legislative Outlook
According to recently released CDC data, nearly 50,000 Americans died from gun violence in 2021. Following November’s midterm elections, exitpolls showed gun violence as a top issue for those who voted. As the world reopened in the wake of a pandemic and life returned to a new normal, Americans also saw the return of mass shootings that captured national attention. Over the last two years, communities across the country in places as small as Charlottesville, Highland Park, Uvalde, and Dumas and as large as Boulder, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and San Jose have experienced the tragedy and trauma of multiple lives lost to gun violence.
Further compounding the dangers faced by communities across the country, this past summer the Supreme Court struck down a provision of New York State’s concealed carry law that required a person who wished to carry a gun in public to have a proper justification to do so. This radical and dangerous decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen jeopardizes commonsense gun laws across the country. Gun safety champions in a number of states—including Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island—took action by immediately passing packages of bills, many of which previously had little chance of seeing a governor’s pen.
In 2023, with voters firmly behind lifesaving gun safety legislation and states adjusting to the new post-Bruen landscape, Giffords expects to advance important legislation across the country while pushing back against the gun lobby’s dangerous advances.
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Expected Gun Violence Prevention Trends
Building upon the significant advances made in the past 10 years, Giffords will continue our efforts to pass lifesaving gun safety policies at the state level and secure sustainable funding for evidence-based violence intervention and prevention programs.
STRENGTHENING BACKGROUND CHECKS
Loopholes in the background check system constitute some of the most dangerous gaps in federal firearms laws today. Although federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks on prospective purchasers, it does not require unlicensed sellers to do so. Recentstudies suggest that more than one in five gun owners acquired their most recent firearm without a background check. State laws that require handgun purchasers to obtain permits or otherwise undergo background checks have been associated with lower rates of gun homicides, suicides, and gun trafficking.
Efforts to strengthen background check laws at the state level have helped keep guns out of the hands of people who are at high risk of committing violence. In 2022, the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) ran over 31 million background checks, making 2022 the third-largest year for gun sales. This makes strong background check laws even more important.
In 2022, six states improved background checks by requiring law enforcement to be notified when a person fails a background check (Connecticut and California), having a state agency conduct a background check instead of just the FBI (Delaware and New York), requiring the purchaser to get a permit to purchase from local law enforcement (Oregon’s Ballot Measure 114), and prohibiting a gun from being transferred before a background check clears (Oregon and Vermont).
In 2023, Giffords will work towards the establishment of a permit-to-purchase system for handguns in Delaware and mandatory live-fire training in Washington. Giffords will also work to close existing background check exemptions in Minnesota.
In 2021, there were20,958 gun homicides, the highest number in at least four decades. Community violence is a daily tragedy in neighborhoods across the country, a pain disproportionately experienced by communities of color. Yet all too often this form of gun violence, and some of its most successful solutions, fail to make the headlines or factor into the national policy debate about public safety.
America is witnessing a historic moment in terms of awareness and support for community violence intervention (CVI) strategies, which can include street outreach work, hospital-based violence intervention programs, and other approaches that work with credible messengers to directly address the root causes of violence and intervene with individuals at the highest risk.
Giffords Center for Violence Intervention’s ongoing advocacy—and that of our many partners—has helped establish these solutions as priorities for the Biden administration and for states across the country. Between 2017 and 2021, annual state investments in CVI strategies increased by more than $600 million. Cities are using federal funds through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to expand their CVI infrastructure and launching Offices of Violence Prevention, which serve as coordinating offices to partner their city’s initiatives with local community-based nonprofit organizations to address gun violence and prioritize public safety.
In 2022, 14 states passed legislation or announced that ARPA funds would go towards community-based intervention and prevention strategies. Giffords worked closely with leaders in Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, and New Jersey to boost evidence-based violence intervention strategies. Giffords is also working with localities and local groups to implement this funding, and many states and localities are still working through allocating ARPA funds.
In 2023, Giffords will continue to work on passing comprehensive legislation and pursuing opportunities to meaningfully address community violence in states including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
In January 2021, our nation suffered a devastating attack on the United States Capitol and on our democracy. Unfortunately, supporters of that attack continue to pose a very real and serious threat. Many communities are experiencing an increase in hate crimes, and states like Arizona, Virginia, and Michigan have faced threats from mobs of armed extremists. As the nation works to ensure accountability for the acts of January 6, states should take additional action to protect their own capitals and residents.
To fight the rise in violent extremism and insurrection, states should prohibit firearms in areas that are sensitive to the exercise of democracy such as state capitol grounds, government buildings, polling places, and places where elections are being conducted or votes are being counted. In 2022, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, and Washington enacted policies to keep guns out of such sensitive locations. Giffords is currently working with leaders in Michigan, Massachusetts, and Nevada to pass similar legislation in 2023.
BANNING GHOST GUNS
Ghost guns and 3D-printed weapons are untraceable, often undetectable firearms that can be assembled at home. They allow people who could not pass a background check to easily acquire guns. In recent years, Giffords has led efforts to strengthen and pass bills banning these types of weapons. In 2022, bills to regulate ghost guns or strengthen existing laws passed in California, Illinois, Maryland, and Washington, as well as in the District of Columbia. Giffords will continue our work to regulate this dangerous source of illegal weapons with leaders in states including Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Oregon in 2023.
EXTREME RISK LAWS
Extreme risk protection order laws, also known as gun violence restraining orders, lethal violence protective orders, and “red flag” laws, allow law enforcement officers, as well as families and household members (in some states), to petition a court to remove an individual’s access to guns if they are found to pose an imminent danger to themselves or others.
Giffords has worked with legislators and local leaders to help pass extreme risk laws in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Giffords experts have helped shape legislation, testified, and joined advocates at state capitols in support of these policies.
Giffords will continue working with legislators and local leaders to build support for the passage of extreme risk laws in Minnesota and Michigan in 2023.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LEGISLATION
Though federal law prohibits people who have been convicted of domestic violence offenses or who are subject to certain domestic violence protective orders from purchasing or possessing guns, there are significant gaps in these laws that put survivors and victims at risk. Women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be killed in a gun homicide than women in other developed countries, and more than half of all murders of women in America are committed with a gun. Further, women who are victims of abuse are five times more likely to be killed by an abusive partner if that individual has access to a firearm.
Laws that prevent people who commit domestic abuse from accessing firearms are vital to ensuring victims’ safety. Fortunately, these policies have a significant amount of bipartisan support in states across the country. But gaps in many states still allow people who commit domestic violence to obtain guns or illegally keep them after they become prohibited. In 2022, California, Illinois, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont took steps to improve their domestic violence gun laws.
Giffords will work with leaders in states including Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Nevada, and Minnesota, as well as the District of Columbia, to further protect survivors of domestic violence in 2023.
LOST AND STOLEN FIREARMS REPORTING
Every year, hundreds of thousands of guns are lost or stolen in America, with one gun stolen every two minutes. Stolen guns are often diverted to the illegal market, where they are used to fuel crime. Lost and stolen reporting laws help reduce gun trafficking by requiring individuals to notify law enforcement shortly after discovering the loss or theft of a firearm. In 2023, Giffords will work to see this law passed in Minnesota and Texas.
CIVIL LIABILITY FOR GUN MANUFACTURERS
Civil liability is a critical part of the American legal system. Companies are incentivized to act responsibly because if they don’t, they can be sued. The gun industry is a special case: it has successfully lobbied for unique immunity, and courts have interpreted this immunity very broadly. As a result, it is very hard for the victims of gun violence to file lawsuits against gun companies. But even the immunity law does not allow the gun industry to act with impunity.
Last year, Giffords worked in California, Delaware, and New Jersey to pass this legislation. In 2023, Giffords expects to continue advocating for laws in Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, and the state of Washington that set clear standards for gun industry conduct and provide an avenue for legal action when gun companies fail to meet those standards.
The presence of a gun dangerously compounds the risk of impulsive acts of violence, especially suicide. Waiting periods, or “cooling off” laws, create an important window of time for gun purchasers to reconsider impulsive acts of violence or self-harm, which can lead to a change of heart and a saved life. In addition, waiting periods provide additional time for the completion of a thorough background check. Waiting period laws have been shown to reduce both gun suicides and gun homicides. In 2023, Giffords will work with lawmakers and advocates to advance waiting periods legislation in Virginia.
When state legislators take the power to regulate for gun safety away from local communities, this is known as preemption. When localities act to prevent gun violence in their communities, these harmful laws allow the gun lobby to threaten lawsuits against cities and municipalities that are already cash-strapped. Preemption policies have effectively allowed the gun lobby to prohibit municipalities from enacting gun laws that make sense for their communities. In 2023, Giffords will work to repeal harmful preemption policies in Oregon so that local governments can act to protect their communities.
Expected Defensive Trends
In 2023 and beyond, Giffords will vigorously defend states against legislation that would harm public safety. We expect the gun lobby to continue to forcefully push its dangerous agenda, attacking the laws that help keep us safe and making it easier for dangerous individuals to access guns. We expect many states, including Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, to attempt to weaken gun safety laws in 2023, despite the fact that an overwhelming number of Americans support these lifesaving policies. Giffords will work with partners in those states to prevent these harmful policies from becoming law.
Historically, nearly every state has enhanced the safety of its residents by requiring people to qualify for a permit in order to carry concealed firearms in public spaces. The gun lobby continues to pressure states to eliminate this fundamental safety standard, allowing people who have never passed a background check or fired a gun to carry hidden, loaded guns in public. Twenty-five states currently allow unrestricted, permitless concealed carry. Giffords anticipates renewed action by the gun lobby to advance this dangerous proposal in states like Florida, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania in 2023.
REPEALING PERMIT TO PURCHASE LAWS AND BACKGROUND CHECKS
One of the most dangerous gaps in federal firearms laws today is the private sale background check loophole. Although federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks on prospective purchasers, it does not require unlicensed sellers to do so. State laws that require handgun purchasers to obtain permits or otherwise undergo background checks have been associated with lower rates of gun homicides, suicides, and gun trafficking. However, in spite of the evidence that background checks save lives, the gun lobby has been pushing states like North Carolina to repeal or weaken their background check or permitting systems.
STAND YOUR GROUND
“Stand Your Ground” laws allow a person to use deadly force when they feel threatened in public, even if that force can be safely avoided. As a result, these laws encourage the escalation of violence in everyday conflicts. More than half of US states have now adopted Stand Your Ground policies, ignoring centuries of legal precedent and a growing body of research indicating that these laws significantly increase gun homicides and injuries and have a disproportionate impact on racial minorities. In 2023, Giffords will continue to oppose this policy in states across the country.
EXPANDED PUBLIC CARRY
Allowing people to carry a gun almost everywhere in public, including areas where the presence of guns is especially dangerous—such as at sporting events, places where government meets and debates, bars, schools, and other sensitive locations—poses a serious threat to public safety. Eliminating or weakening restrictions on carrying loaded guns in public places also makes it much harder for law enforcement to identify people who are illegally possessing or carrying guns in public. We can save lives by preserving and strengthening state concealed carry permitting systems and limiting or prohibiting firearms in places like schools, public parks, and bars.
Some states have enacted extreme preemption laws that subject local officials to personal liability and removal from office for taking action to address gun violence. This approach, which punishes legislators for their official acts, is likely unconstitutional. Giffords opposes legislation that would allow the gun lobby to threaten lawsuits against cities and municipalities that pass responsible gun safety laws, effectively allowing the gun lobby to prohibit municipalities from enacting gun laws that make sense for their communities. Giffords will oppose any efforts to enact extreme preemption in Pennsylvania in 2023.
Expected Local Work
In recent years, Giffords has expanded our work at the local level, helping local governments to enact measures like gun dealer regulations, safe storage ordinances, and laws regulating guns at public assemblies.
VIOLENCE INTERVENTION AND PREVENTION
To prevent everyday gun violence in cities, Giffords advocates for the implementation and expansion of evidence-based, community-driven strategies. In 2022, Giffords worked with city and state governments in the following ways:
- Successfully advocating for the passage of legislation that made California, Maryland, and Oregon among the first states in the nation to allow Medicaid to directly reimburse the services provided by violence prevention professionals
- Helping secure historically expanded state-level CVI investments in Pennsylvania ($30M), Virginia ($13M), Oregon ($16M), Illinois ($107M), Michigan ($3.5M), New York ($100M), and Washington ($4.6M)
- Expanding the influence of CVI coalitions in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, and leading the California CalVIP Coalition, the nation’s largest coalition focused on promoting CVI strategies
- Growing our national network of state administrators that oversee CVI programs—which met four times in 2022 to share best practices, challenges, and funding opportunities— to include 15 different states
- Launching a quarterly CVI newsletter with policy developments and other relevant news and information for the field
In 2023, Giffords Center for Violence Intervention will host a major national CVI summit in Los Angeles that will include hundreds of attendees and a major new report on the role of intermediary organizations in supporting the CVI field. Giffords Center for Violence Intervention will also continue to focus on expanding investment in CVI programs and creating CVI coalitions in three to four additional high priority states, like Michigan, Minnesota, and Colorado.
While the gun lobby works to strengthen preemption laws, Giffords supports localities in their efforts to regulate firearms to better protect their communities:
- In 2022, Giffords helped several Colorado communities enact a broad package of GVP ordinances including assault weapon bans, open carry restrictions, and limits on where guns may be carried in public among others.
- Also in 2022, Giffords assisted officials and advocates from the following communities with a variety of gun violence prevention strategies including the comprehensive regulation of gun dealers, safe storage, and community violence prevention:
- Los Angeles, California
- Pasadena, California
- Durham, North Carolina
- Columbus, Ohio
- Sacramento, California
- Appleton, Wisconsin
- The University of Colorado Regents
- Petaluma, California
- Mt. Vernon, New York
- Scarborough, Maine
- Torrance, California
- Austin, Texas
- Culver City, California
- Ithaca, New York
- Palo Alto, California
- Anapolis, Maryland
- Hanover Park, Illinois
- Montgomery County, Maryland
- San Diego, California
- Burbank, California
- Tulsa, Oklahoma
- Littleton, Massachusetts
- Rock County, Wisconsin
- Redwood City, California
- Lafayette, California
In 2023, Giffords will continue to respond to the gun violence prevention needs of communities by providing expertise, drafting assistance, and testimony.
In 2023, Giffords expects to expand its outreach into states with firearms preemption, focusing on CVI, tracing and implementation efforts, data collection, and ordinances that have a greater likelihood of withstanding a preemption challenge such as lost and stolen reporting laws.
TEN YEARS LATER
It’s been a decade since the shooting that nearly took Gabby’s life. We’re marking this milestone by sharing stories and taking action.Read More