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After Virginia Beach Tragedy, 2019 State Legislatures Once Again Offer A Roadmap for Action on Gun Safety as NRA Influence Continues to Wane

June 5, 2019

In the wake of Friday’s mass shooting in Virginia Beach, many are again asking what more can be done to prevent gun violence. A review of 2019 state legislative sessions shows that in statehouses across the country, lawmakers from Nevada to Vermont have been answering this question with action.

From pushing for good gun safety laws like the one Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed today, to opposing dangerous gun lobby bills in deep red states like Alabama and Mississippi, Moms Demand Action volunteers have been showing up day after day to ensure their legislators stand up for the safety of their families and communities while rejecting the dangerous gun lobby agenda.

Highlights of the 2019 legislative sessions include:

  • Two states and the District of Columbia have enacted Red Flag laws this year, bringing the number of states with this life-saving policy to 15. Nevada’s governor is expected to add the Silver State to this list soon.
  • Two states enacted background checks laws, bringing the total number of states that require a background check on all handgun sales to 21.
  • 16 states rejected bills that would have allowed guns in K-12 schools.
  • 11 states rejected bills that would have forced college and university campuses to allow guns.
  • Three states rejected bills that would have created new Stand Your Ground laws.

With most state legislatures now closed for the year, read on for more about key gun safety victories from the 2019 state legislative session.

A Trio of Western States Pass Landmark Gun Safety Bills

Like other Western states, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada have proud traditions of responsible gun ownership and are also political bellwether states as the 2020 election approaches. This legislative session, those states spoke loudly for gun safety.

On Saturday, the Nevada Assembly passed a sweeping school safety package, demonstrating yet again that the political map is changing. For the second time in less than a year, Nevada — once considered an NRA stronghold — is again poised to enacted common-sense gun safety legislation. The package awaiting the governor’s signature includes a Red Flag law, requires gun owners to responsibly store their firearms to prevent unauthorized access by children, prohibits bump stocks and other similar devices that effectively convert semiautomatic firearms into machine guns, and requires education officials to create a model for school threat assessment teams.

All of this follows landmark legislation signed in February requiring background checks on all Nevada gun sales.

In New Mexico, after years of organizing from gun safety supporters, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in March signed a bill requiring background checks on all gun sales.

In Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis in April signed a Red Flag law, long demanded by gun violence survivors and other advocates.

These developments followed major electoral efforts to elect gun safety champions in all three states in 2018 from Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and Moms Demand Action volunteers

Momentum Continues for Red Flag Laws

In the aftermath of last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, reports emerged that law enforcement officials had been alerted to warning signs that the shooter posed an extreme risk — and yet they lacked a mechanism for removing the shooter’s guns. This underscored the need for Red Flag laws, also known as Extreme Risk laws, which allow law enforcement and family members to petition courts to temporarily suspend a person’s access to guns when there is evidence that they pose a serious risk to themselves or others.

On the day of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, just five states had Red Flag laws on the books. Florida lawmakers quickly added the Sunshine State to this list, and other states followed suit. The momentum continued this year, with Colorado, New York and the District of Columbia all passing Red Flag laws, bringing the number of states with this life-saving policy to 15.

This number could rise again in the coming weeks: In addition to Nevada’s bill awaiting the governor’s signature, Hawaii’s legislature has also passed a Red Flag law, which is also on the governor’s desk.

Legislatures Reject Dangerous Gun Bills

At the same time proactive gun safety bills were passing across the country, NRA priority bills were blocked in red, blue and purple states.

In hearing room after hearing room, Moms Demand Action volunteers in their signature red t-shirts, law enforcement leaders and other gun safety advocates urged lawmakers to reject gun lobby priorities that would have jeopardized public safety. And in another reflection that lawmakers are catching up with their constituents, state legislatures from Alabama to Nebraska did just that:

Guns in Schools

Lawmakers in 16 states — Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Washington and Wyoming — rejected bills that would have allowed guns into K-12 schools. Only three states passed guns in schools bills this year, with two being signed and one awaiting the governor’s signature. One state still has a guns in schools bill pending.

Guns on Campus

Lawmakers in 11 states — Arkansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming — rejected bills that would have forced guns onto college and university campuses. Not a single state adopted a guns on campus bill this year.

Permitless Carry

Lawmakers in eight states — Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — rejected bills that would have allowed people to carry a hidden, loaded handgun in public without a permit. Only three states enacted permitless carry legislation this year. Permitless carry bills are still pending in five states.

Stand Your Ground

Lawmakers in three states — Arkansas, Minnesota and North Dakota — rejected Stand Your Ground bills that would have upended traditional self-defense law and encouraged armed vigilantism by allowing a person to kill another person in a public area even when they can clearly and safely walk away from the danger. No states enacted new Stand Your Ground laws this year. Bills to create new Stand Your Ground states are still pending in two states.

Looking Ahead

Tuesday brought the enactment of a major domestic violence prevention law in Oregon, as Gov. Brown signed bipartisan legislation requiring convicted domestic abusers, abusers subject to final orders of protection and convicted stalkers to turn in their guns immediately. The signing came a day after Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut signed bills to require the responsible storage of firearms, as well as a bill prohibiting undetectable, untraceable firearms, commonly known as “ghost guns” in the coming days.

In New York, meanwhile, the legislature has passed a bill that would prohibit undetectable guns from being manufactured, possessed and sold across New York state. The legislation is now awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature.

In several states with legislatures that are still in session, meanwhile, Moms Demand Action volunteers and advocates from other gun violence prevention organizations are continuing to pack hearing rooms in support of gun safety laws. Elsewhere, volunteers are working overtime to support Gun Sense Candidates in states with 2019 elections and gearing up for the pivotal presidential election in 2020.

If you’ve seen 2020 candidates embracing Moms Demand Action volunteers in their red tees, it’s because candidates are embracing their gun safety bonafides like we’ve never seen before. As the race for 2020 heats up in the wake of the Virginia Beach mass shooting and daily gun violence, one thing is clear: Gun safety has gone from the third rail to a top tier issue for presidential candidates.

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