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Gun Safety Activism Spurred Action as 26 States Pass 55 Laws to Address Gun Violence Crisis

 Findings make clear that gun lobby–backed bills have been rejected across the country—with 31 states refusing to weaken their laws  

July 23, 2018—As many state legislatures across the country wrap up their sessions for the year, a new analysis released today shows gun safety activism inspired lawmakers to pass laws to address the gun violence crisis while rejecting gun lobby priorities. The mid-year edition of   Gun Law Trendwatch   from Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence shows that since the shooting in Parkland, Florida, just five months ago, 55 bills designed to keep guns out of dangerous hands have been signed into law in 26 states.

“The horrific tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in February brought renewed fervor to the demand from Americans everywhere for our lawmakers to take action to save lives from our gun violence crisis,” said Allison Anderman, managing attorney of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Legislatures have responded to the communities they represent even as the gun lobby continually resists attempts to strengthen our nation’s gun laws. Increasingly, lawmakers are understanding that inaction in the wake of tragedy is no longer acceptable. These victories build on the life-saving bills we’ve helped pass and because of that progress, more Americans in all areas of the country will be better protected from gun violence. This momentum will strengthen with our continued calls for leaders to stand up and protect their communities from the deadly threat of gun violence.”

While partisan gridlock continues to block progress on gun reform at the federal level, the action we witnessed play out in the states tells a different story. Republican governors in 15 states have signed gun safety bills that strengthen their current laws.

Examples of the types of lifesaving legislation we’ve seen pass so far this year in states across the country include:

  •  Domestic Violence : Laws to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers passed in 9 states (KS, LA, MD, OH, OR, NY, UT, VT, WA).
  •  Bump Stocks and Trigger Activators : Laws to ban bump stocks and trigger activators were enacted in 8 states (CT, DE, FL, HI, MD, NJ, RI, WA).
  •  Extreme Risk Protection Orders : Extreme risk protection orders, measures that allow law enforcement, a family member or others in the community to petition for a temporary order removing access to firearms for at-risk individuals, were enacted in 8 states (DE, FL, IL, MA, MD, NJ, RI, VT).
  •  Background Checks : Laws that add a background check requirement or improve an existing background check law passed in 6 states (FL, LA, NJ, OR, TN, VT).
  •  Concealed Carry Requirements : Laws that regulate the carrying of concealed firearms in public were tightened in 5 states (MD, NJ, OK, SD, WA).
  •  Urban Gun Violence Reduction : Laws to provide state funding to evidence-based urban gun violence prevention and intervention programs passed in 8 states (CA, CT, FL, IL, MD, NE, NY, RI).

Thanks to the unyielding efforts of the gun violence prevention movement and groups like Giffords, there’s been a remarkable increase in states passing effective gun laws and blocking dangerous gun lobby measures. Thisactivism helped defeat 44 dangerous gun lobby-backed bills in 31 states so far this year. These dangerous bills include:

  • Permitless carry: The gun lobby’s top legislative priority is repealing laws that require individuals to obtain a permit in order to carry a hidden, loaded gun in public. This proposal was defeated in 11 states (CO, IA, ID, IN, KY, LA, OK, SD, TN, VA, WI).
  • Guns on campus: Dangerous proposals backed by the gun lobby in an effort to allow more firearms in more places were defeated in 14 states (AR, CA, FL, KY, LA, MN, MO, MS, NH, OK, SD, VA, WA, WV). College campuses experience less gun violence than other public places, in large part due to restrictions on carrying firearms on campuses.
  • Guns in K-12 schools: Despite being a priority of the gun lobby, these dangerous proposals to allow teachers, school personnel, or other armed civilians to carry firearms on school property were defeated in 19 states (AR, AL, CA, CO, IA, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, ME, MN, MO, MS, OK, TN, WA, WI, WV).

“We’ve seen governors from every part of the country sign strong gun safety laws this year, showing just how formidable the gun safety movement has become,” said Robin Lloyd, Government Affairs Director at Giffords. “Americans have demanded that their lawmakers do more to protect our streets, workplaces, and schools—and lawmakers responded. After Parkland, many state legislatures redoubled their efforts to shore up background check systems, give law enforcement and families tools to stop an individual in crisis from getting a gun, and keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers. At the same time, they defeated attempts by the gun lobby to pass dangerous policies that would have lined the pockets of the gun lobby but put communities at risk. There’s no going back now—we’ll continue to build on these efforts so that we can better address our country’s gun violence crisis and as a result, save lives.”

 Recent polling continues to show that voters from across the political spectrum want to see elected officials act to strengthen our gun laws. Americans know that gun violence and gun safety measures are not partisan issues, and statehouses across the country are beginning to agree. Many of the states that have acted are led by Republicans, and gun violence prevention is shaping up to be a defining issue in the 2018 election.

Case studies of some of the states that signed gun safety bills into law include:

  • Florida, a state with a history of recklessly weak gun laws,  passed a gun safety reform package  after the Parkland shooting that was supported by its Republican governor and Republican legislature. These reforms included critical gun violence prevention policies to establish the extreme risk protection order, raise the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21, ban bump stocks, and extend the mandatory three-day waiting period on handgun purchases to all firearms at gun dealers. Giffords, working in partnership with families and young people from the Parkland community in addition to key legislative leaders, provided technical and strategic assistance and message guidance on the gun safety provisions  to help advance this package .
  • Maryland further strengthened the state’s gun laws by passing a gun safety package that helps remove guns from people who are exhibiting dangerous behavior, prohibits the purchase and possession of bump stocks and similar devices, and provides critical funding for lifesaving violence intervention programs. Signed by the state’s Republican governor, the bills establish an extreme risk protection order, remove firearms from domestic abusers, ban bump stocks, and provide state financial support for evidence-based public health programs. Giffords worked closely with state advocates and stakeholders in Maryland to support these proposals, and spearheaded efforts with Baltimore legislators and advocates to secure the critical financial investment from the state that will work to break the cycle of gun violence in Baltimore and other urban communities.
  • Vermont, a state that had effectively no gun safety laws on the books and has a deep history of gun culture with high gun ownership rates, enacted a sweeping gun safety package that was  signed into law by its Republican governor . The state will now require background checks on most gun sales and allow state law enforcement officials to petition courts for extreme risk protection orders, which temporarily prevent people who pose a demonstrated risk of violence from having access to firearms. It will also limit the size of magazines to 15 rounds for handguns and 10 rounds for long guns. Giffords activated gun owners across the state who supported these proposals and worked to amplify their voices during the debates in the state capitol.
  • Delaware continued to build upon its success enacting gun safety laws in recent years. Giffords, along with members of the  Giffords Delaware Coalition  and other state partners, joined together to advocate for legislation to establish a Lethal Violence Protection Order, also called an Extreme Risk Protection Order, to temporarily prevent people who pose a demonstrated risk of violence from having access to firearms. Giffords worked closely with lawmakers and advocates to draft and pass this lifesaving legislation, including testifying in the House Administration Committee and joining Governor John Carney at the bill signing . In addition to  passing the Extreme Risk law , Governor John Carney also signed into law a ban on bump stocks and a bill to facilitate removal of firearms from a person who is dangerous due to mental illness.
  • New Jersey established itself as a leader on gun safety with the  passage and signing of a six-bill package . Governor Murphy, elected in 2017 after campaigning on a promise to strengthen New Jersey’s already strong gun laws, signed into law a number of bills that Governor Christie had vetoed as well as several new measures. In addition to enacting the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2018, the Garden State also passed laws to strengthen background checks and concealed carry permitting requirements, as well as reduce the state’s allowable magazine capacity from 15 to 10. Giffords worked closely with Governor Murphy and key leaders in the state house to advance this robust package of strong gun law.
  • Massachusetts, a state with some of the country’s strongest gun laws, adopted an  Extreme Risk Protection Order  law. Governor Charlie Baker became the fourth Republican governor to enact this proposal since the horrific shooting in Parkland. Giffords worked with lawmakers for more than a year to build support for this policy, including traveling to Boston in July 2017 to speak at a press conference  and  testify in favor of the legislation . Former Giffords staff member and Giffords Oregon Coalition member Jenna Yuille authored an op-ed in which she shared her personal story to demonstrate the importance of the policy as a  suicide prevention measure. Giffords continued to work closely with lawmakers and advocates, including joining the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence at the Capitol for a lobby day to support the successful passage of the bill.
  • New York continues to be at the forefront of gun safety legislation, recently strengthening its domestic violence gun laws . This new law expands which domestic violence misdemeanors are firearms-prohibiting and extends domestic violence-related firearm restrictions to all guns. It also creates procedures for prohibited people to relinquish their firearms and makes people ineligible for a firearms license and possession when they are the subject of an outstanding warrant for a felony or serious offense. Giffords worked with legislators and allies in the domestic violence community to advocate for this  proposal for years  before  seeing it enacted this year .
  • Rhode Island lawmakers responded to recent high-profile shootings across the country and passed a  ban on bump stocks and an Extreme Risk Protection Order law . Governor Gina Raimondo signed these bills into law, continuing her leadership on the issue of gun safety.
  • Nebraska took action to prevent gun violence this year by providing funding for gun violence prevention and intervention programs through the  Nebraska Office of Violence Prevention . The legislature also passed a law to prohibit those subject to a harassment protection order from purchasing and possessing firearms. Harassment, like stalking, can be a risk factor for engaging in future violence.
  • Illinoisconsidered a number of critical gun safety proposals in 2018. The legislature passed  important legislation  to combat the illegal trafficking of firearms in the state by providing greater oversight of gun dealers, only to have Republican Governor Bruce Rauner veto the bill in February. The legislature modified this bill and  passed a similar proposal again  before the legislature adjourned. Governor Rauner signed a  Firearms Restraining Order bill , also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order, and legislation to establish a 72-hour waiting period before the sale of all firearms in the state.
  • Connecticutresponded to the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history in Las Vegas by enacting a law to  ban bump stocks  and trigger activators.
  • South Dakota, a Republican-controlled state with some of the weakest gun laws in the United States, not only defeated gun-lobby priority legislation, but it also strengthened its background check process for carrying concealed firearms. The state will now require a background check before issuing a concealed carry permit. The legislature also defeated two of the gun lobby’s key priorities this year, blocking bills that would have allowed for residents to  carry concealed firearms without a permit  and that would have allowed guns on campus.
  • Kansas, which has the  second weakest gun laws in the country  and had virtually no statewide domestic violence and firearms laws,established a  law to prohibit certain domestic abusers from possessing firearms . The state also revised their onerous law regarding the carrying of concealed weapons in public buildings to  exempt certain public medical and adult care facilities .
  • Louisianahas the third-highest gun death rate in the country and does not have strong gun laws.This year, however, legislators  built on previous legislation enacted in 2014  to  strengthen laws relating to domestic violence and firearms . Louisiana enacted a law to prevent a person who is subject to a domestic violence protective order from purchasing a firearm or carrying a concealed weapon. Louisiana also passed a law to require courts to report more mental health records to NICS. This year the Republican-controlled legislature also blocked the gun lobby’s top policy priorities, defeating bills that would have allowed residents to  carry concealed firearms without a permit , as well as bills that would have allowed  guns on university campuses and in K–12 schools .
  • Oregon was the  first state to pass a gun safety bill following the Parkland tragedy. It strengthened protections for domestic violence survivors by adding dating partners and stalkers to the list of abusers prohibited from accessing firearms. Giffords and the  Giffords Oregon Coalition testified in support of this bill  and advocated with legislatures on both sides of the aisle for its passage.
  • Ohio has weak gun laws and in recent years the Republican-controlled legislature and Republican Governor John Kasich have further  eroded these laws . This year, however, Ohio enacted a  law that protects survivors of dating violence  by allowing them to obtain domestic violence protection orders.
  • Utah, a traditionally conservative state with a poor track record on gun violence prevention, enacted a law to  expand domestic violence protective orders  to include dating relationships.  This law , passed by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by the Republican governor, also requires that law enforcement officers responding to an allegation of stalking or dating violence use all reasonable means to protect the victim and prevent further violence, including confiscating any weapons involved in the alleged incidents.
  • Washington state passed several new laws since Parkland,  prohibiting trigger modification devices  like bump stocks and adding  domestic violence harassment to the list of offenses  that prohibit a person from possessing a firearm. Washington State legislators also beat back  efforts by the gun lobby  to allow for more firearms on university campuses and in K-12 schools.

This new wave of gun safety activity and engagement builds on efforts from last year’s legislative session, when state legislators passed lifesaving policies highlighted by Giffords, including strengthening background checks and closing domestic violence loopholes. In 2017, 13 states also  rejected measures  to allow guns on campus, and legislators in 20 states defeated measures to allow people to carry loaded, concealed firearms in public without a permit. This continuing success is further evidence that the gun violence prevention movement has maintained the historic momentum generated in response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School five years ago. In fact, since 2013, nearly 290 gun laws that make communities safer have been enacted in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

 Read the latest edition of  Gun Law Trendwatch.  

For additional information or to arrange time to speak with a gun violence prevention expert, contact Jason Phelps at