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2020 YEAR-END REPORT: Outcry After Police Killings Sparked Legislation from State & Local Leaders to Address Police and Community Gun Violence 

This year, a number of cities and states established or funded community violence intervention programs while investing or reallocating funding for law enforcement racial bias training, criminal justice reform, and services for underserved communities 

Even as COVID-19 largely shut down legislative activity, 42 gun safety bills passed in 13 states and DC 

Washington, DC—The horrific killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd by law enforcement officers led to a public outcry over patterns of police violence against Black and Brown Americans that was a catalyst for meaningful reform, according to the year-end analysis released today by Giffords Law Center. The 2020 year-end edition of Gun Law Trendwatch reveals that several major cities created or funded community-based violence intervention programs—some of which also integrate community policing strategies and reforms. These strategies have proven remarkably successful at reducing interpersonal gun violence in impacted communities. 

The report also highlighted that even as COVID-19 shuttered most legislative activity, 42 gun safety bills passed in 13 states and Washington DC. The total number of laws passed since the massacre in Parkland, Florida, in 2018 stands at 179—with Republican governors in 16 states signing gun safety bills into law. 

“While a global pandemic upended state legislatures, the crisis of gun violence continued, and many state lawmakers took meaningful action,” said Allison Anderman, Giffords Law Center Senior Counsel. “The most notable progress was in Virginia, where the state’s new gun safety majority passed a comprehensive legislative package that included universal background checks. Local lawmakers from Austin to Minneapolis to New York City also secured funding for a range of programs that have been proven to reduce interpersonal violence that predominantly impacts communities of color. These reforms represent important progress in our march toward an America where every person lives free from the fear of gun violence.” 

A number of states invested in or reallocated funding for law enforcement racial bias training, criminal justice reform, and services for underserved communities this year. Evidence continues to mount as to how police violence and community gun violence are inextricably linked. As examined in the report Giffords Law Center released in January, In Pursuit of Peace: Building Police-Community Trust to Break the Cycle of Violence, extensive research demonstrates that when communities experience over-enforcement of minor infractions and under-protection from serious violence, they lose trust in law enforcement and the judicial system. 

Some examples of lifesaving legislation passed this year include:

  • Background Checks: Virginia HB 2/SB 70 creates a universal background check requirement for all firearm sales in the state. Washington HB 2467 creates a point of contact background check system for all firearms instead of only certain types, and HB 2555 expands background checks for firearm frames and receivers to make them consistent with federal law.
  • Community Violence Reduction Programs: States that made substantial investments in evidence-based community gun violence reduction programs or leveraged federal funding streams for these programs include: California SB 74, Illinois SB 264, New Jersey SB 3309, New York SB 7503, and Virginia HB 1499/SB 248 and HB 422.
  • Extreme Risk Protection Orders: New Mexico SB 5 and Virginia SB 240/HB 674 create new state ERPOs that allow law enforcement officials to petition for orders. Two states and the District of Columbia enacted laws that strengthen their existing ERPOs: California AB 2617, District of Columbia B 685/B 686 and B 729/B 730/B 809, and Washington HB 2622.
  • Ghost Guns:Three states and DC enacted laws that either created new regulations for undetectable or untraceable firearms, or strengthened existing regulations: California SB 118, District of Columbia B 681/B 682/B 746, Hawaii HB 2744, and Rhode Island HB 7102/SB 2004.
  • Domestic Violence: Two states enacted bills that strengthen their domestic violence laws. Virginia SB 479/HB 1004 requires a court to issue a protective order to require the respondent to relinquish guns within 24 hours and file proof of relinquishment with the court. Washington HB 2473 closes the boyfriend loophole for domestic violence misdemeanors and HB 2622 imposes sanctions on defendants who fail to relinquish firearms as ordered.
  • Lost and Stolen Reporting: Virginia HB 9 requires gun owners to report the loss or theft of a firearm within 48 hours to law enforcement and requires the law enforcement agency to transmit that information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
  • Dealer Regulations: California AB 2061 authorizes the state Department of Justice to inspect firearms dealers, ammunition vendors, or manufacturers participating in gun shows to ensure compliance with state and local laws, and AB 2362 gives the state DOJ the authority to issue fines to gun dealers who do not comply with state law.
  • Assault Weapons: California SB 118 broadens the state’s definition of “assault weapon” to include certain weapons that are designed to skirt existing restrictions.
  • Gun Safety Technology: California AB 2847 amends the state’s Unsafe Handgun Act to ensure more handguns certified for sale and manufactured in the state come equipped with basic lifesaving consumer safety features as well as a microstamping.

For years, the gun lobby has advanced violent rhetoric and policies that allow more people to bring more guns into public spaces. These policies were on full display in 2020 when gun rights extremists protested gun laws and stay-at-home orders while carrying military-style assault weapons and other firearms. This year the gun lobby was successful in passing a handful of dangerous laws, including:   

  • Concealed Carry: Idaho expanded its permitless carry law by authorizing out-of-state residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit or background check (HB 516). 
  • Guns in Schools:Kentucky required School Resource Officers in the state to carry firearms on the campuses of K–12 schools (SB 8).
  • Guns in Public: Two states expanded the ability to bring guns into courthouses (Iowa HB 2502 and South Dakota SB 169). South Dakota also repealed laws that generally prohibit people without permits from carrying loaded firearms off their property while riding motorcycles and certain other vehicles (HB 1094). Louisiana expanded the ability of concealed carry permit holders to bring guns into houses of worship (HB 334).
  • Preemption:Iowa prevented local governments from passing laws to protect against unauthorized gun access by minors and others, and made it easier for gun rights activists to sue local governments that attempt to pass gun safety regulations. The state also limited local governments’ ability to restrict firearms in government buildings unless the localities pay for security screening systems and armed security personnel in those buildings (HB 2502). Oklahoma preempted any local laws that deal with extreme risk protection orders (SB 1081). West Virginia removed the freedom of local governments to prohibit people without permits from carrying guns during certain types of events (SB 96). 

Despite gun extremist’s efforts, Giffords and other gun violence prevention advocates and courageous legislators were quite successful in defeating gun lobby-backed bills in 2020. These victories include:

  • Permitless Carry: This year, bills to repeal concealed carry permit requirements—a gun lobby priority—failed in Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia.
  • Guns on Campus: The gun lobby continually attempts to force colleges and universities to allow guns on campus. Campus carry bills failed in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
  • Guns in K–12 Schools: Despite the evidence that the presence of guns makes students and teachers less safe, after each school shooting, legislators friendly to the gun industry predictably call for laws arming teachers and other civilians. This year, bills to allow guns in K–12 schools failed in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Read the latest edition of Gun Law Trendwatch.


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