Gun Control in the States

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Gun Control in the States

Gun rights or gun safety?

 

This is the question facing many lawmakers in states across the U.S. While Congress considered and failed to enact any gun control legislation in 2015 or 2016, state legislators have faced a variety of measures relating to gun regulation. In some states, we’ve seen stricter controls put on gun ownership or use. In other states, however, lawmakers have relaxed restrictions.

 

Stricter gun control laws

 

California legislators led the way in enacting new gun control laws in 2016, passing 12 bills that imposed new restrictions. Governor Jerry Brown signed most of them, such as a bill to require background checks for ammunition purchases, one banning guns with magazine locking devices, and one that prohibits temporary firearm loans to anyone but family members. Governor Brown vetoed bills that would have regulated unfinished firearm frames and that would have required the mandatory reporting of a lost or stolen firearm within 48 hours.

 

Connecticut passed legislation that would prohibit those who have a temporary restraining order filed against them from possessing firearms.

 

Voters weighed in on gun control laws in the 2016 election, too. In California, they continued the trend started by legislators by approving a ballot measure that requires a permit to buy ammunition, bans the possession of large-capacity magazines, and advances the effective date of a state law that prohibits buying ammunition out-of-state, among other things. Washington voters approved a referendum that allows courts to issue “extreme risk protection orders,” which allows guns to be taken from someone deemed to be a significant danger to himself or others. Nevada voters supported a ballot initiative that would require anyone who sells or transfers a firearm do so through a licensed dealer who must run a background check, while Maine voters rejected a similar measure.

 

Removing restrictions on guns

 

In states that are controlled by Republicans, gun legislation generally involves loosening rules on ownership or carrying.

 

For instance, Tennessee lawmakers passed bills allowing both concealed and open carry of firearms on college campuses, which the governor allowed to become law. Georgia legislators also passed a bill allowing the carrying of concealed firearms on college campuses, but Governor Nathan Deal vetoed it.

 

There were unique dynamics in the debate over gun laws in Virginia this year. In December 2015, Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring announced that the state would no longer recognize concealed carry permits issued by many other states. This prompted a backlash in the Republican legislature. Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe worked with legislators in 2016 and agreed to sign a bill that enshrines right-to-carry reciprocity in state law. In return, legislators passed bills favored by the governor that make it more difficult for domestic abusers to possess firearms and that station state police agents at gun shows to provide voluntary background checks.

 

Virginia legislators also passed a bill that would have allowed state workers to keep firearms in their cars and one that overturned the governor’s ban on firearms in state buildings. Both of these bills were vetoed by Governor McAuliffe.

 

In 2015 and 2016, four states (Kansas, West Virginia, Idaho, and Mississippi) passed laws allowing the carrying of concealed firearms without a permit. Other states have considered similar legislation. For instance, Virginia senators deadlocked 20 to 20 in a 2016 vote for a similar law in that state. Both houses of the Montana legislation voted in 2015 to allow concealed carry without a permit in that state’s cities and towns (it is already legal in outside of city limits), but Governor Brian Schweitzer vetoed it. New Hampshire’s governor also vetoed permit-less concealed carry legislation in 2015.

 

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