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           2021 YEAR-END REPORT: Americans Want Solutions to Spiking Gun Violence. Courageous Legislators in 28 States & DC Responded by Passing 73 Strong Bills.

Meanwhile, extremist legislators loyal to the gun lobby are passing extremist gun laws like permitless carry as gun violence continues to skyrocket.

Washington, DC—The 2021 edition of Year-End Trendwatch focuses on the lifesaving progress made by 28 states in 2021, including investments of time and resources by 12 states in community violence intervention programming and significant reforms to policing laws in 14 states. 

Yet despite this progress, extremist legislators in a number of states are rolling back commonsense gun safety laws, against the will of their constituents. For example, even though Iowans overwhelmingly support background checks on all gun purchases, in 2021, Iowa repealed its law requiring background checks on purchases of handguns from unlicensed sellers. Similarly, in Texas—where 61% of all voters and 54% of gun owners say they would never vote for a candidate who opposes universal background checks—a background checks bill (HB 118) was swiftly defeated in the state legislature.

“Courageous legislators in 28 states made important progress this year—but we can’t lose sight of the dangerous strides that are being made by extremists across the country,” said Giffords Law Center Senior Counsel and Local Policy Director Allison Anderman. “As the Supreme Court considers gutting laws that regulate the carry of guns in public, six states repealed laws that require a permit and background check to carry in public. And that was far from the only troubling trend in 2021. Polling shows that this isn’t what the vast majority of Americans want—they want commonsense gun laws that will put an end to skyrocketing gun violence. This year’s edition of Trendwatch should be a call to action for anyone who’s alarmed by a version of a society that prizes unlimited access to guns and armed vigilantism over democracy and public safety.”

While the examples in Iowa, Texas and other states show elected officials acting against the desires of their constituents, 28 states and DC passed 73 strong bills, bringing the total number of significant laws passed since the massacre in Parkland in 2018 to 253. States have passed more than 465 laws since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.

Examples of 2021 gun safety victories include:

Background Checks: Four states improved background checks in the following ways: prohibiting gun transfers until a background check clears (Colorado HB 1298), verifying gun purchase permits remain valid (Illinois HB 562), requiring background checks on long gun purchases (Maryland HB 4/SB 208), and extending the time the state police has to conduct a background check from three to five business days (Virginia HB 2128).

Community Violence Intervention (CVI) Programing: The following 12 states and the District of Columbia committed significant funding for local community violence intervention and prevention programing or created offices dedicated to violence prevention: California (AB 128), Colorado (HB 1299), Connecticut (HB 5677), Illinois (HB 2791, SB 2017, and 2800), Maryland (HB 588, SB 708), Massachusetts (HB 4002), Minnesota (via executive action), New Jersey (SB 2022), New York (AB 3006, SB 2503), Pennsylvania (HB 1348, SB 255), Virginia (HB 7001c), and Wisconsin (via executive action).

Extreme Risk Protection Orders: Three states strengthened their laws allowing law enforcement and, in some states, family and household members, to petition a court to temporarily remove guns from a person who poses a substantial risk of violence: California (AB 1057/SB 538), Connecticut (HB 6355), and Nevada (SB 6).

Ghost Guns: Four states passed legislation to regulate the possession or sale of unfinished firearm frames and receivers and/or unserialized firearms: Delaware (HB 125), Hawaii (HB 1366), Nevada (AB 286), and New York (SB 13 and 14).

Protecting Democracy: Oregon (SB 554), Virginia (SB 1381), and Washington (SB 5038) prohibited guns in and around their state capitol buildings. Virginia’s bill also prohibits guns at polling places, meeting places of the electoral board, and buildings where a recount is occurring. Washington’s bill also prohibits openly carrying a firearm within 250 feet of a permitted demonstration.

Gun extremists made their states less safe in a number of ways in 2021, including:

Guns in Public Spaces: The following eight states passed laws that allow more guns into more public spaces: Arkansas (SB 306, 573, and 555), Florida (HB 259), Iowa (HB 756), Montana (HB 102), North Dakota (HB 1297), Oklahoma (SB 646 and 672), Tennessee (SB 765), and Texas (HB 1920).

Permitless Carry: Six states repealed laws requiring a permit and background check to carry hidden, loaded guns in public: Arkansas (HB 1898), Iowa (HB 756), Montana (HB 102), Tennessee (SB 765), Texas (HB 1927), and Utah (HB 60).

Stand Your Ground: Arkansas (SB 24), North Dakota (HB 1498), and Ohio (SB 175) created Stand Your Ground laws that allow people to use deadly force against others even if they could safely retreat from the conflict. South Dakota (HB 1212) and Utah (HB 227) passed laws making it harder to prosecute people who kill others and later claim self defense. 

As states with strong gun laws continue to strengthen them and states with weak gun laws continue to weaken them, our gun safety landscape increasingly resembles two different nations. Yet, due to interstate trafficking, even Americans in states with strong gun laws are vulnerable to the loopholes of states with weak laws. And all of us bear the brunt of the loss of approximately 40,000 American lives each year—over the course of our lifetimes, we will all know a victim of gun violence. Rather than accept the status quo, we must respond to these devastating statistics with federal legislation. Read the latest edition of Gun Law Trendwatch


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