New report highlights that since Sandy Hook, 45 states and Washington DC enacted over 315 gun safety laws. This year also saw the rejection of dozens of gun-lobby backed bills
July 30, 2019 — With many state legislatures finishing up their sessions for the year, a new analysis released today finds state legislators, spurred by gun safety activism, continued their unprecedented push to pass laws to address gun violence while rejecting dangerous gun lobby priorities. Giffords Law Center’s Gun Law Trendwatch: 2019 Mid-Year Review found that in the 17 months since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, over 110 gun safety bills have been signed into law in 32 states and Washington DC. This surge is a result of the steady pressure activists have put on lawmakers dating back to the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school over six years ago. Since that tragedy, 45 states and Washington DC have enacted at least 315 new gun safety laws.
“The era when lawmakers could get away with doing nothing in the wake of tragedy is over. They can’t hide from the research that proves states with stronger gun laws have lower gun death rates,” said Allison Anderman, Senior Counsel of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “In states across the country, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are coming together to pass stronger laws to save lives from gun violence. The unprecedented pace at which new policies to make communities safer are being enacted has coincided with elected officials becoming more emboldened to turn their backs on the gun lobby. Because of the progress we’ve made, more communities will be better protected from gun violence. The fight is far from over. We will build on the lifesaving bills we’ve passed and continue working to create a future free from the perils of gun violence.”
After the 2018 midterm elections, our country witnessed historic progress in the US House of Representatives with the passing of critical gun violence prevention measures like universal background checks and funding for gun violence research. These priorities stopped moving in the Senate, where they continue to be blocked from being signed into law by the Republican-led majority. At the state level, gun violence prevention has become a unifying, rather than dividing, issue as Republican governors in 16 states have signed gun safety bills that strengthen their current laws since Parkland.
Examples of the types of lifesaving legislation we’ve seen pass so far this year in states across the country include:
- Background Checks: Laws that add a background check requirement or improve an existing background check law passed in three states (NM, NV, WA).
- Extreme Risk Protection Orders: In a trend that has only grown since Parkland, states are focusing on passing 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 four states and the District of Columbia (CO, DC, HI, NV, NY) and changes were made to existing extreme risk laws in two states (IN and WA).
- Bump Stocks and Trigger Activators: Laws to ban bump stocks or trigger activators were enacted in one state and the District of Columbia (NV, DC).
- Child Access Prevention: Laws that help keep unattended guns out of the hands of minors passed in two states (CT and NV). Delaware criminalizes reckless or intentional failure to secure a gun when a minor or prohibited person accesses it.
- Community Violence Reduction Programs: Legislation to provide funding to evidence-based community gun violence reduction strategies passed in six states (CA, IL, CT, NE, RI, NY).
- Dealer Regulations: Illinois passed a law regulating firearms dealers.
- Domestic Violence: Laws to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers passed in five states (AR, LA, NM, OR, WA).
- Ghost Guns: Laws regulating untraceable or undetectable firearms, including homemade and 3D printed guns, passed in three states (CT, NJ, WA).
- Guns in Schools: Wyoming increased restrictions on programs allowing school staff to carry guns in K-12 schools.
- Gun Safety Technology: New Jersey now requires all firearm dealers to make at least one personalized handgun available for purchase once a model is approved by a state commission and listed on a roster as eligible for sale.
- Lost and Stolen Reporting: Hawaii now requires gun owners to report the loss or theft of a gun to law enforcement.
- Prohibited Persons: Laws that prohibit additional categories of prohibited people from purchasing or possessing guns passed in four states (IN, NJ, WA, UT).
- Trafficking: Laws that improve efforts to prevent firearms trafficking passed in three states (NV, TN, NJ).
- Safe Storage: Connecticut passed a law requiring some guns to be locked when they are unattended in vehicles.
Voters from coast to coast are demanding that their elected leaders no longer rubber stamp the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda that puts profits over public safety. Because of their activism and the efforts of groups like Giffords, gun safety advocates have achieved remarkable success in blocking dangerous bills proposed by the National Rifle Association and its allies. This activism helped defeat dangerous gun lobby-backed bills in 26 states so far this year in the following categories:
- 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 failed in eight states (AL, GA, IA, MN, MS, SC, TX, VA).
- Guns on campus: Dangerous proposals backed by the gun lobby in an effort to allow more firearms in more places on college and university campuses failed in 15 states (AR, CO, FL, GA, KY, MS, MO, NV, RI, SC, SD, TX, VA, WV, WY). 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 failed in 18 states (AK, AZ, AR, CO, GA, ID, IA, KY, MN, MO, MS, MT, NE, OK, SC, TN, WA, WY).
Case studies of some of the states that signed gun safety bills into law include:
- California made the nation’s largest investment in community violence intervention programs by more than tripling funding—up to $30 million—for the California Violence Intervention and Prevention (CalVIP) grant program, which provides competitive grants to cities and community-based organizations implementing effective violence reduction initiatives. In recent years, Giffords helped lead a coalition of dozens of organizations to create and fund CalVIP, and made increasing funding for the program our top priority in the state. CalVIP has helped fund lifesaving initiatives that have reduced shootings by over 50% in cities like Oakland and Richmond, California.
- Nevada, in its first legislative session since the Route 91 shooting, passed background checks and a gun safety reform package sponsored by a survivor of the Vegas shooting, Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui. These reforms include banning trigger activators, strengthening the state’s child access prevention laws, and implementing an extreme risk law. Giffords worked closely with local partners and the bill sponsors to develop the package and advance it to the Governor’s desk.
- Hawaii lawmakers prioritized enacting gun safety legislation by passing an extreme risk protection order law and legislation to report lost and stolen firearms this session. Giffords submitted testimony in support of both, which were signed into law by Governor David Ige.
- Connecticut continued to be a leader in gun safety this year, with three gun safety bills passing the legislature on a bipartisan basis and signed into law by Governor Lamont. The bills included “Ethan’s Law” (a child access prevention law), a bill that requires safe storage of handguns in vehicles, and a bill that bans ghost guns.
- Colorado took a major step forward by enacting a critical gun safety law this year. Giffords, along with members of CO Gun Owners for Gun Safety and other state partners, joined together to advocate for legislation to establish 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 and helped organize local gun owners who testified in support of the new law.
- New Jersey further established itself as a leader on gun safety by passing several bills as part of Governor Phil Murphy’s second gun violence prevention package since taking office in January 2018. The Garden State enacted a change to New Jersey’s current law on personalized handguns which will help bring safer firearms to market, further regulated untraceable or undetectable firearms, and enhanced the state’s trafficking laws. Giffords worked closely with Governor Murphy and leaders in Trenton to advance this package of gun safety measures.
- New York advanced a robust gun safety agenda this year, establishing an extreme risk protection order to temporarily prevent people who pose a demonstrated risk of violence from having access to firearms, as well as providing funding to evidence-based community gun violence reduction strategies. The Empire State also banned bump stocks, extended the time for background checks to be completed, and further limited the ability of civilians to be armed in schools. Giffords worked with legislators and allies to advocate for these laws.
- New Mexico continued its efforts to move gun safety to the forefront by enacting a universal background checks law and establishing a law to disarm domestic abusers. Giffords worked closely with state advocates and legislative leaders to help advance these critical gun safety measures.
- Illinois enacted important legislation to combat the illegal trafficking of firearms in the state by providing greater oversight of gun dealers, a measure Giffords and a coalition of advocates have been working to advance for years.
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 [email protected]