2018: A Year of Gun Safety in the States
Today, New Jersey became the fifth state this year and 10th overall to enact Red Flag legislation, which creates an Extreme Risk Protection Order to temporarily keep guns out of the hands of someone who is a risk to themselves or others. Twice as many states now have these lifesaving laws on the books as did just four months ago.
The push for Red Flag legislation is continuing, with several other states — blue and red states alike — moving closer to enacting these laws as well. What’s more, it’s far from the only sign that this has been a year of gun safety in state legislatures. Thanks to the tireless work of advocates, red, blue and purple states passed life-saving gun violence prevention bills this session — and they routinely defeated the gun lobby’s top priorities, too.
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. Read on for more about key developments from statehouses across the country.
Republican Governors Take Action to Prevent Gun Violence
In the weeks after the Parkland tragedy, Vermont and Florida passed landmark gun violence prevention packages over the gun lobby’s objections – each bearing the signature of a Republican governor.
Vermont’s new laws include a requirement of a criminal background check on every gun sale in the state, making Vermont the 20th state to enact a law to close the background check loophole. The package also established a Red Flag Law, took steps to protect domestic violence survivors from gun violence, prohibited the sale of high capacity magazines and bump stocks and increased the minimum age to purchase all firearms to 21.
Following the Parkland shooting, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Florida passed a groundbreaking gun violence prevention package. 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.
Republican governors in Kansas and Maryland also signed legislation this year to prevent gun violence – read on to learn more about the new laws in these states.
A Growing Number of States Enact Red Flag Laws
Not long after the Parkland tragedy, journalists reported that the shooter had displayed prior warnings so concerning his mother had alerted law enforcement. The shooter had also been known to own guns. In the wake of the tragedy and these revelations, Florida lawmakers worked quickly to enact a Red Flag Law that empowers local law enforcement to seek a court order to temporarily block someone from having guns if they are a risk to themselves or others.
Other states followed suit: Vermont, Maryland, Rhode Island, and now New Jersey have also passed Red Flag laws since the Parkland shooting. On the day of the tragedy, five states had these lifesaving laws in place; today, 10 do. In a reflection of the growing bipartisan interest in gun safety laws, three of the new Red Flag laws passed since Parkland bear the signature of a Republican governor.
Moved by strong support from law enforcement – as well as research showing these laws can prevent suicide – lawmakers in a number of other states are continuing to seriously consider Red Flag legislation. As Massachusetts lawmakers work to get a final version of Red Flag legislation to Gov. Charlie Baker, the governor last week indicated his support for the idea. In Illinois, lawmakers have passed a Red Flag bill, and Gov. Bruce Rauner has indicated his support for the concept, too.
In Texas, meanwhile, the governor has recommended the legislature consider this type of legislation, and an interim study on the policy is under way. Following passage out of the Delaware House last week, a committee in Dover will hold a hearing on Red Flag legislation, while New York legislation gained new momentum after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would be championing it last week.
As lawmakers in these states and others continue to explore how to prevent warning signs from turning deadly, the list of states with these important laws on the books could grow longer still in the months ahead.
Gun Lobby Closing Legislative Sessions with a Serious Losing Streak
Across the country, state sessions this year were marked by defeat of the gun lobby’s top priorities. Bills that would have allowed people to carry hidden, loaded handguns in public without getting a permit have failed in 15 states including Oklahoma, where Republican Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a permitless carry bill. And, lawmakers in 15 states have rejected legislation that would have forced public colleges and universities to allow guns on campuses. Bills that would allow guns in public K-12 schools have also failed in 15 states.
These gun lobby defeats are happening around the country – from West Virginia to Alabama to Colorado, and from Missouri to Kansas to Iowa. And, the gun lobby will continue to lose as lawmakers hear from constituents urging them to put public safety ahead of the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda.
Advocates Win Long-Fought Battles in Nine States to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence
Moms Demand Action volunteers and gun violence survivors around the country have spent years building support for bills to disarm domestic abusers. This year, their hard work paid off, with new laws to protect victims of domestic violence passing in nine states. 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.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a law to ensure that domestic abusers relinquish their guns when they become prohibited from having them. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law to disarm domestic abusers, including closing a loophole that allowed some abusers under restraining orders to keep their rifles and shotguns. Gov. Jeff Colyer of Kansas also signed legislation to help keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers this session.
Rounding out this list were Tennessee, Washington and Utah.
States Act on Bump Stocks in the Face of Congressional Inaction
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 bump stocks have been introduced across the country.
In November, Massachusetts became the first state after the Las Vegas shooting to officially make bump stocks illegal. Since then, seven states – Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington, Rhode Island and Florida – have followed suit, offering further proof that Congress isn’t where the fight to pass gun violence prevention legislation starts, it’s where it ends.
States to Watch
With 11 states still in regular session and 1 in special session, there is still more states can do this year to protect people from gun violence. In Pennsylvania, advocates are working tirelessly to pass a law to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers after legislation passed the state Senate unanimously earlier this year. Delaware is <strong<on the cusp of becoming the ninth state since the Las Vegas shooting to prohibit bump stocks. And as noted above, the governors of Massachusetts and Illinois could be the next to sign Red Flag legislation.
2018 isn’t over yet, so watch this space for more good news.