In states around the country, the ground is shifting on gun violence prevention. In red, blue and purple states, life-saving gun violence prevention bills are gaining momentum while the gun lobby’s priority bills languish. Momentum in the states offers some of the clearest proof yet that public sentiment on gun violence prevention is shifting, resulting in more and more lawmakers bucking the NRA.
This week alone, Vermont enacted a sweeping package of gun violence prevention bills including a law requiring background checks on all gun sales and the Maryland legislature sent bills to disarm domestic abusers and prevent people who are a danger to themselves or others from getting guns to the governor’s desk. Read on for more about these developments, as well as what else we’re seeing in the states.
Comprehensive Gun Violence Prevention Packages Gain Momentum
Earlier today, Gov. Phil Scott – the Republican governor of Vermont – signed a landmark package of gun violence prevention bills. Among other things, the new laws include a requirement of a criminal background check on every gun sale in the state, making Vermont the 20th state to close the background check loophole. The package also includes the establishment of a Red Flag Law, steps to protect domestic violence survivors from gun violence, a prohibition of the sale of high capacity magazines and bump stocks and an increase in the minimum age to purchase all firearms in the state to 21.
Following the Parkland shooting, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Florida responded to the statewide outcry by passing a groundbreaking gun violence prevention package over the gun lobby’s objections. Among other advances, the bill established a Red Flag Law, prohibited the purchase and possession of bump stocks, raised the minimum age to purchase all firearms in Florida to 21 and closed the Charleston Loophole.
Red Flag Laws Garner Bipartisan Support
Red Flag Laws empower local police officers and family members to seek a court order to temporarily block a person from having guns if they are a risk to themselves or others. Since the Parkland shooting, Red Flag legislation has gained new traction as lawmakers explore how we can prevent red flags for violent behavior from turning deadly.
Since Parkland, two states – Florida and Vermont – have established new Red Flag Laws, bringing the total number of states with this policy to seven. In both Florida and Vermont, Republican governors signed Red Flag bills into law. In Rhode Island, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order related to Red Flags.
Maryland is on track to become the eighth state with a Red Flag Law – this week the legislature passed a bill following indications from the governor that he would support such a policy. Additionally, prominent Republican governors including John Kasich (OH) and Rick Snyder (MI) have indicated a new openness to considering this life-saving legislation. Overall in 2018, Red Flag legislation has been active in at least 28 states and Washington, D.C.
Bills to Disarm Domestic Abusers Move Full Steam Ahead
Thanks to grassroots support, bills to protect victims of domestic violence by disarming domestic abusers are moving full steam ahead. In addition to the advances in Maryland and Vermont, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed legislation to close loopholes in the state’s law that allow stalkers to buy and possess guns and allow domestic abusers to have guns simply because they are not married to their victims.
In Kansas, legislation to close gaps in state law that give abusers easy access to guns passed unanimously in both chambers and currently awaits the governor’s signature. And, in another unanimous vote, the Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill that would make it harder for abusers to access guns. Legislation that would take steps to disarm domestic abusers has been active in at least 23 states and Washington, D.C., this session.
New States Explore Requiring a Background Check on Every Gun Sale
Currently, loopholes exist in federal law that allow people to buy guns via unlicensed sales – often at gun shows and from websites like Armslist.com – without passing a criminal background check. Twenty states have laws to close these loopholes and require a criminal background check on every handgun sale.
The package of gun violence prevention bills signed into law this week in Vermont includes legislation that requires a criminal background check on every gun sale in the state. Furthermore, lawmakers in Minnesota recently announced a bipartisan background check push. Legislation that would require a criminal background check on private gun sales or strengthen existing background check requirements has been active in at least 19 states this session.
Five States Have New Laws Prohibiting Bump Stocks
Bump stocks – devices that enable a semiautomatic firearm to mimic the firing speed of a machine gun – were used in the Las Vegas shooting, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Since then, new proposals to prohibit or regulate the possession, sale or use of bump stocks have been introduced across the country.
This past November, Massachusetts became the first state since the Las Vegas shooting to officially make bump stocks illegal. Shortly thereafter, former Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a similar measure in New Jersey. This week, Vermont became the latest state to make these dangerous devices illegal. Delaware is on the cusp of doing the same – a bump stock prohibition recently passed both chambers in the state. In 2018, legislation that would prohibit or regulate bump stocks has been active in at least 32 states and Washington, D.C.
Gun Lobby Priorities Defeated Around the Country
As state sessions begin to wind down, many of the gun lobby’s top priorities have been defeated. Last month, lawmakers in West Virginia defeated a bill that would have forced public colleges and universities to allow guns on campuses. Recently, the end of session in Indiana marked the defeat of dangerous bills that would have repealed the state’s handgun carry license requirement and would have allowed loaded handguns in schools.
Two weeks ago, Alabama adjourned without passing two dangerous gun policies – permitless carry and guns in schools. And, just last week lawmakers in Tennessee voted against a bill that would have armed more teachers in the state.