Giffords Law Center Gun Law Trendwatch: June 13, 2023
A Roundup and Analysis of the Latest State Firearm Legislation
Thanks to Gun Violence Prevention Efforts in 2023, Millions More Americans Will Be Protected By Strong and Effective Gun Safety Laws
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 the incredible gun safety progress we’ve seen in numerous states—and provide updates on significant gun safety and gun lobby bills as they move through state legislatures.
State of the States
It’s Been a Tremendous Year for Gun Safety, and More Is Yet to Come
Often, issues of gun policy are portrayed in false equivalencies, like “half the country wants stronger gun laws and the other half wants weaker laws.” The truth is that while there are vocal people fighting for gun deregulation, overwhelmingly, Americans want stronger commonsense gun laws and meaningful approaches to gun violence prevention rather than empty thoughts and prayers.
Similarly, when we evaluate the success of gun violence prevention efforts year after year, we cannot simply count up the number of gun safety laws and compare that number to laws that expand gun rights.
A state law that subjects gun buyers to background checks through a permitting system (enacted in Michigan and Minnesota) is far more effective at reducing gun violence than a law prohibiting banks from applying merchant codes to firearm transactions (enacted in Idaho) is at expanding gun rights. The quality of the laws is a much more important barometer of where the country stands on gun violence prevention than the quantity.
Apr 14, 2023
By this measure, 2023 has proven to be a banner year for gun violence prevention thus far. States around the country have enacted dozens of significant, evidence-based gun safety laws. And the year is not over yet—while many states have ended their legislative sessions, several states, including California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Michigan, have not.
This year, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, and Washington passed popular and effective policies including assault weapon, large-capacity magazine, and ghost gun bans; child access prevention and waiting period laws; and community violence intervention program funding.
Michigan and Minnesota capitalized on their new gun safety majorities to pass foundational gun violence prevention policies including permit-to-purchase universal background checks, extreme risk protection orders, and child access prevention laws.
Similarly, after the Vermont legislature gained a veto-proof gun safety majority in the 2022 midterms, it enacted a child access prevention law, imposed a 72-hour waiting period on gun purchases, and allowed family and household members to petition for an extreme risk protection order. The state also banned paramilitary training camps to fight growing anti-government gun extremism and made it harder for people who commit domestic abuse to access guns.
Maryland and Hawaii responded to the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision weakening states’ ability to restrict who carries concealed loaded guns in public by making many sensitive locations off-limits to guns. In addition to their other efforts, Colorado, Hawaii, and Washington enacted innovative victims’ access to justice laws that, for the first time since the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) was passed in 2005, gives gun violence victims a clear path to justice in those states.
Even states that are less likely to push the envelope on gun violence prevention enacted strong policies this year. Utah strengthened its voluntary Do-Not-Sell list to help prevent gun suicides, which account for 83% of gun deaths in the state according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Indiana improved law enforcement data sharing to ensure that people who are prohibited are unable to purchase guns and banned trigger activators like Glock switches.
Thanks to voters who unambiguously demanded action from their representatives, it has been a tremendous year for gun safety—and more is yet to come.
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
Michigan’s Next Move Is to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence
When an abusive partner has access to a firearm, a woman is five times more likely to be killed. In the United States, where guns outnumber people, women are 21 times more likely to be killed with a gun than women in other high-income countries—making the US the most dangerous country in the developed world when it comes to women and guns.
Federal law prohibits certain individuals from possessing guns if they have been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or if they are subject to a final domestic violence restraining order, but gaps remain. For example, dating partners subject to a protective order are not prohibited under federal law. More than 20 states have closed this gap and prohibited abusive dating partners from accessing guns.
In 2023, with its new gun safety majority, Michigan passed a permit-to-purchase law that prohibits dating partners and others subject to a domestic violence protective order from getting a permit. The state, however, still lacks a law barring people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from purchasing or possessing firearms.
Hopefully, this will change before the end of the year. State Senator Stephanie Chang has drafted a bill to broadly prohibit people who commit domestic abuse from purchasing or possessing firearms and are working on legislation to disarm these individuals as well.
Research has found that when states broaden their firearm prohibition laws in this way, they experience a 16% reduction in intimate partner gun homicides. Thanks to the voters in 2022, Michigan is on its way to reaping these benefits.
Gun Lobby Extremism
Extremists Lawmakers Declare Laws They Don’t Like Unenforceable
When states including Virginia, Colorado, and New Mexico began passing gun violence prevention laws in recent years, gun extremists began declaring those constitutionally-enacted laws unenforceable in their jurisdictions. Calling themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries,” these local governments and, in many cases, their chief law enforcement officers, have said that they will not enforce lifesaving laws like extreme risk protection orders, background checks, and assault weapon bans.
Most recently, following Michigan’s enactment of several strong gun safety laws, commissioners in Ottawa County anointed it a “constitutional county” and purported to give themselves the authority to determine which laws infringe on the Second Amendment. Such a move not only invalidates the will of the electorate but replaces the judicial branch’s interpretation of these laws with that of the commissioners.
Although largely understood to be political grandstanding, such declarations can have real-world consequences. In 2020, the then-sheriff of El Paso County in Colorado said his office would not utilize the state’s extreme risk protection order (ERPO) law except in exigent circumstances. Two years later, an individual who had previously been arrested by that office for threatening to detonate a bomb and kill their grandparents used an assault weapon to kill multiple people at a nightclub. Victims of the shooting are now suing the sheriff’s office for failing to petition for an ERPO to disarm the shooter.
Extremist positions like this threaten to undermine trust in law enforcement and our elected representatives, but they also can prevent laws from working to save lives.
Our experts can speak to the full spectrum of gun violence prevention issues. Have a question? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.Contact
Bills in Motion
Lawmakers intent on protecting their constituents from gun violence began 2023 with the introduction of hundreds of gun violence prevention bills. Notably, bills to strengthen background check requirements, fund proven community violence intervention programs, improve domestic violence prohibitions, and regulate or prohibit ghost guns have been introduced in at least 38 states and the District of Columbia. Gun extremists nevertheless continue to push their dangerous agenda of more guns to address gun violence and have introduced several bills to bring guns in schools, allow permitless carry, allow people to shoot first and ask questions later, and make law enforcement officers liable for enforcing federal gun laws in over a dozen states. For nearly 30 years, we have helped states make our communities safer with evidence-based policies and by fighting the gun lobby. In 2023, we are stronger than ever.
Gun Safety Bills
- BACKGROUND CHECKS: California AB 1406 passed its chamber of origin. Connecticut SB 973 has passed its chamber of origin. Pennsylvania HB 714 passed its chamber of origin. At least 11 states have bills pending that would enact universal background checks or strengthen existing background check laws.
- COMMUNITY VIOLENCE: Minnesota HB 1938, SB 2995, and SB 3307 were enacted. New York SB 4000 was enacted. California AB 762 and AB 912 passed their chambers of origin. Connecticut SB 1162 has been sent to the governor. Massachusetts HB 3901 has passed the senate. Michigan SB 198 has passed its chamber of origin. Missouri HB 11 has been sent to the governor. New York AB 2893 has passed a committee and SB 580 has passed its chamber of origin. Pennsylvania HB 611 has passed its chamber of origin. Rhode Island HB 5200 has passed a committee. At least 10 states have bills pending that allocate, protect, or administer funding for evidence-based violence prevention programs.
- DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Connecticut HB 6667 and Vermont SB 4 have been enacted. California AB 818 passed its chamber of origin. New York SB 2102 has passed its chamber of origin. At least seven states and the District of Columbia have bills pending that would improve efforts to keep guns out of the hands of people who commit domestic abuse.
- GHOST GUNS: Colorado SB 279 and Connecticut HB 6667 have been enacted. California AB 1089 passed the assembly. At least seven states have bills pending that regulate ghost guns or improve the effectiveness of their ghost gun policies.
Gun Lobby Bills
- GUNS IN SCHOOLS: Dangerous bills to allow or expand the ability to carry guns in school or on campus are pending in at least nine states.
- PERMITLESS CARRY: There are reckless permitless carry bills pending in at least five states.
- STAND YOUR GROUND: Bills that make it easy to use deadly force in public and evade justice are pending in at least three states.
- LIABILITY FOR ENFORCING GUN LAWS: Bills that would make law enforcement officers or other state and local government officials personally liable, or otherwise impose onerous penalties on law enforcement agencies or localities, for enforcing federal gun laws are pending in at least five 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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