Giffords Law Center Gun Law Trendwatch: February 1, 2022
A Roundup and Analysis of the Latest State Firearm Legislation
While States Wait for ATF Rule to Take Effect, Some Act to Address the Growing Threat of Ghost Guns
Every other week during the state legislative cycle, Gun Law Trendwatch breaks down trends in the gun violence prevention universe. We take an in-depth look at a topic of particular interest to legislators and advocates—this week it’s how lawmakers are addressing the threat of ghost guns—and provide updates on significant gun safety and gun lobby bills as they move through state legislatures.
State of the States
Ghost guns are flooding the streets of our cities, creating a rapidly escalating threat to public safety. Ghost guns typically lack serial numbers and metal components—making them untraceable by law enforcement and undetectable by metal detectors. Understandably, they are increasingly becoming the gun of choice for people looking to commit crimes or those who are prohibited from legal firearm possession.
May 21, 2020
By mid-November 2021, the New York Police Department had recovered 200 ghost guns over the course of the year, a drastic increase from the 17 recovered in 2018. Baltimore and Chicago have seen similar increases in the rate of ghost guns being used in crimes. According to a leaked report from a federal coalition that includes the FBI, twice as many ghost guns were recovered from people convicted of felonies and other individuals prohibited from gun possession, in 2019 than in 2018.
In addition to being used to terrorize communities already disproportionately impacted by gun violence, ghost guns have been used in several high-profile mass shootings, including on high school and college campuses. White supremacists are increasingly arming themselves with ghost guns, and ghost guns have been used to shoot law enforcement officers.
The Biden administration has directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to develop regulations that would treat unfinished ghost gun kits like traditional firearms, requiring serialization and background checks. While ATF finalizes these new regulations, states are taking critical action and continuing efforts from the past few years address the problem of ghost guns.
Coordinated efforts are underway to address the threat of ghost guns in Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Virginia. In California, New York, and Washington, lawmakers are attempting to strengthen and refine existing laws. Bills to regulate ghost guns have also been filed or carried over in Florida, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Although the gun industry will keep trying to innovate around laws designed to keep communities safe from gun violence, courageous lawmakers will continue to respond with decisive action that puts their constituents above gun lobby profits.
JOIN THE FIGHT
Gun violence costs our nation 40,000 lives each year. We can’t sit back as politicians fail to act tragedy after tragedy. Giffords Law Center brings the fight to save lives to communities, statehouses, and courts across the country—will you stand with us?
Gun Safety Spotlight
In 2022, States Continue to Push for Medicaid to Fund Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Programs
Research shows that the most predictive indicator of violent injury is a previous violent injury. In fact, the risk of injury recidivism can be as high as 45% within the first five years following a violent injury. Hospital-based violence intervention programs (HVIPs) break this cycle of violence by intervening when a person is hospitalized and connecting them with trained, culturally competent case managers who provide access to services like GED programs, employment training, court advocacy, and housing.
Tina L. Cheng, et al., “Effectiveness of a Mentor-Implemented, Violence Prevention Intervention for Assault-Injured Youths Presenting to the Emergency Department: Results of a Randomized Trial,” Pediatrics 122, no. 5 (2008): 938–946.
HVIPs have repeatedly been shown to save lives and money—states are beginning to act on these findings. In 2021, Connecticut and Illinois passed legislation allowing Medicaid funding to be directed to these programs, providing them with much-needed cash infusions that will undoubtedly strengthen their ability to reach at-risk individuals.
In 2022, legislators in California, Oregon, Maryland, and New York are attempting similar efforts to use Medicaid funding to support HVIPs. Oregon is also working to include funding from the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act for HVIPs and other community violence intervention programs in the state budget.
Funding for HVIPs and similar programs should be—and in many cases is—a bipartisan effort, since it does not involve limiting gun possession. In 2021, legislators successfully came together to get the job done—and hopefully more will do the same in 2022.
Gun Lobby Extremism
Extremist Lawmakers Glorify Kyle Rittenhouse and Attack Prosecutors with New Bills
Kyle Rittenhouse, who was acquitted of all charges after killing two people with his AR-15 at an August 2020 protest, has become a hero of extremists. Radical lawmakers in two states have introduced bills that would encourage similar vigilante violence by making prosecutors personally liable to defendants who similarly avoid a murder conviction by claiming self-defense.
In Tennessee, Republican State Rep. Bruce Griffey introduced HB 1769, known as “Kyle’s Law,” which would not only make prosecutors personally liable to defendants but would also require the state to reimburse the defendant for expenses such as lost wages, attorney’s fees, and other costs.
In Virginia, newly elected Republican State Rep. Marie March filed HB 515, which would allow defendants charged with murder who successfully plead self-defense to sue prosecutors in civil court for damages, including punitive damages.
Such bills are emblematic of the gun zealtory that has gripped a number of state legislatures across the country. It has caused extremist legislators to go after their states’ own law enforcement agents in an effort to prevent the enforcement of gun laws—and, now, to go after prosecutors seeking to hold people accountable for killing others. If states are truly interested in protecting the safety of their residents, glorifying those who do harm and undermining our justice system is not the answer.
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Bills in Motion
In the first month of 2022, courageous state legislators have introduced bills to strengthen background check requirements, fund proven community violence intervention programs, improve domestic violence prohibitions, and regulate or prohibit ghost guns in 19 states. Meanwhile, the gun lobby continues to push its dangerous guns in schools and permitless carry bills in over a dozen states. We’re committed to helping state legislatures enact laws that will make our communities safer and push back against harmful gun lobby legislation.
Gun Safety Bills
- BACKGROUND CHECKS: New Hampshire HB 1668 had a hearing on 1/26, and at least seven additional states have bills pending that would require all gun buyers to be subject to background checks or would strengthen existing background check laws.
- COMMUNITY VIOLENCE: Massachusetts HB 4236 had a hearing on 1/26, New Mexico HB 96 had a hearing on 1/27, HB 833 had a hearing on 1/27, and SB 592 had a hearing on 1/26. At least six states have bills pending that relate to the allocation, protection, or administration of funding for evidence-based violence prevention programs.
- DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: New Jersey 2020 AB 1772 and SB 5026 passed their first committees. Delaware HB 264 had a hearing on 1/26. Legislation to strengthen domestic violence laws is pending in at least nine states.
- GHOST GUNS: California AB 311 has passed its first committee. District of Columbia B 506 was sent to Congress. New York AB 8741 has passed its first committee. Virginia S 310 had a hearing on 1/26. Washington H 1705 has passed its first committee. Bills that would regulate or prohibit untraceable firearms are pending in at least six states and the District of Columbia.
Gun Lobby Bills
- GUNS IN SCHOOLS: Arizona SB 1123 and Missouri HB 1481 passed their first committees. Colorado HB 1033 has a hearing scheduled on 2/8. Wisconsin AB 495 passed its first chamber and SB 484 passed its first committee. Dangerous bills to allow guns in school or on campus are pending in at least 13 states.
- PERMITLESS CARRY: Colorado HB 1033 has a hearing scheduled on 2/8. Ohio SB 215 passed its chamber of origin. Wisconsin SB 619 has passed a committee. Virginia SB 330 had a hearing on 1/26. There are reckless permitless carry bills pending in at least nine states.
- STAND YOUR GROUND: Ohio SB 215 has passed a House committee. Bills that make it easy to use deadly force in public and evade justice are pending in at least ten states.
- LIABILITY FOR ENFORCING GUN LAWS: South Dakota HB 1052 had a hearing on 1/26. Bills that would make law enforcement officers or other state and local government officials personally liable for enforcing federal gun laws are pending in at least six states.
HERE TO HELP
Interested in partnering with us to draft, enact, or implement lifesaving gun safety legislation in your community? Our attorneys provide free assistance to lawmakers, public officials, and advocates working toward solutions to the gun violence crisis.CONTACT US
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