Gun Control

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Biden Pushes for Assault Weapons Ban

In the wake of a shooting in Boulder, Colorado, President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass legislation that would outlaw certain types of semi-automatic guns and high-capacity magazines. He also wants federal background checks to cover more gun sales. Such legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate.


Banning semi-automatic weapons with certain military features, often labeled as “assault weapons,” has long been something that Democrats have wanted enacted. The House of Representatives also recently passed two bills that would mandate federal background checks on more gun purchases and transfers. However, there is resistance in the Senate to passing such legislation.


Proponents of these bills argue that they will help stop gun violence. They point to mass shooters using assault weapons to commit their crimes and argue that banning these guns would save lives. Opponents, however, contend that the only thing that makes a semi-automatic gun an “assault weapon” is how it looks, since the ban is focused on cosmetic features. They note that criminals and mass shooters will evade gun control laws, which will only disarm law-abiding people.


With the House of Representatives controlled by Democrats, it has been easy to move gun control legislation through that chamber. When the Senate was controlled by Republicans, they had no desire to bring up any of these bills for a vote. Now that the Senate is evenly divided, Republicans cannot block gun control. However, Democrats from states like West Virginia, Arizona, and Montana -- which all have significant gun-owning populations -- are reluctant to support bills that impose new federal laws on guns.


Do you think federal gun control laws should be stricter?

House Passes Two Gun Background Check Bills

Two bills that would tighten federal background checks for gun purchases passed the House of Representatives this week


By a vote of 219-210 the House approved HR 1446 and by a vote of 227-203 the House passed HR 8. Here is how VoteSpotter describes HR 1446:


To increase from 3 to 10 days the maximum time period that an individual must wait to receive a completed background check under an "instant background check" system. Most background checks are completed while a customer waits, and current law establishes that if not completed within 3 days a federally-licensed gun dealer may transfer a gun to a buyer. Under this bill, if a check is not completed after 10 days, the potential buyer could petition for a final determination. If an additional 10 days go by without a completed check, the gun dealer could then sell the gun to the buyer.


And here is how VoteSpotter describes HR 8:


To require individuals who transfer a firearm to another person to do so through a federal firearms licensed gun dealer, who must conduct a background check on the individual receiving the gun. Currently, retail gun dealers must complete background checks prior to selling a gun to an individual. This legislation expands that requirement to transfers between private individuals except for some limited circumstances such as a parent giving a child a gun or a gift from a spouse.


Backers of these bills argued that they are needed to close loopholes that allow felons and other dangerous people to obtain guns. They argue that there should be universal background checks for gun purchases and people should not be able to circumvent these checks by going through private sellers. Opponents of the bills said that they would add complex and expensive steps to simple gun transfers such as someone loaning a hunting rifle to a friend. They also argued that criminals would not comply with the laws.


Gun control has been an increasingly hot topic in Congress. For years, even Democrats shied away from bills that increased federal restrictions on gun ownership or sales, fearing a backlash from voters. In recent years, however, Democrats in the House have been pushing gun legislation.


These bills passed on largely party-line votes. Their future in the Senate remains uncertain.


Do you think that every gun sale or transfer should go through a licensed gun dealer who can perform a background check?

Virginia House Advance Three Gun Control Bills

Legislators in Virginia are on the verge of tightening up the state’s gun laws. The House recently passed three bills that would impose more restrictions in firearms in Virginia.


One bill would allow local school boards to prohibit anyone except law enforcement personnel from carrying guns on their property. Another would extend the waiting period for gun purchases. Currently gun buyers must wait 3 days if their background check is not completed instantaneously. Under this legislation, that waiting period would extend to 5 days. The final bill would make it a felony to manufacture, sell, or possess homemade guns.


Democratic Governor Ralph Northam has made it a priority to enact gun control laws. During this session of the legislature he called on members to pass “bold, meaningful action.” With Democrats taking control of the legislature after a long period of Republican majorities, they have been supportive of these efforts.


Supporters of these laws consider them necessary as part of a larger strategy to make Virginia safe from gun violence. They argue that these laws will help keep guns away from violent individuals while not infringing on the rights of legal gun owners. Opponents disagree, arguing that the burden of these new laws will fall primarily on these legal gun owners since criminals disobey laws. They say that restricting firearms or infringing upon the carrying of guns will lead to higher crime.


The Virginia Senate will now consider these bills.


Do you think that there should be a 5-day waiting period for gun purchases?

Biden Could Pursue Gun Control upon Inauguration

When Joe Biden takes office on January 20, many progressives are pushing him to enact a variety of policies that break with the Trump Administration's actions over the past four years. One high-profile area where Biden will likely act is on gun laws. His proposals to place more federal restrictions on gun ownership will meet sharp opposition from Republicans in Congress, however.


 During his time in the U.S. Senate and as vice president, Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of gun control. During the 2020 campaign, he outlined a variety of proposals that he says would help stem gun violence. These include:

  • Ban online sales of guns and gun parts
  • Ban the sale of certain types of semi-automatic guns known as "assault weapons"
  • Ban the sale of high-capacity magazines
  • Mandate a background check for all transfers of guns, including those between private individuals
  • Repeal a federal law that prevents gun manufacturers from being sued for the misuse of their products
  • Prohibit individuals from purchasing multiple guns in a month
  • Require gun owners to lock up their guns, report them if stolen, and be held legally liable if minors have access to them


Biden contends that these ideas are necessary to reduce murder and suicide rates. He and his supporters argue that these stricter laws will deter crime while still preserving firearm access to those who want them for hunting. Opponents, however, point out that there is little evidence that gun control laws actually reduce crime rates. They note that many criminals already evade current gun laws so these new proposals would simply infringe upon the rights of legitimate gun owners.


To enact these proposals, however, Congress must act. The last time a major gun control package passed Congress was in the mid-1990s. If Republicans retain control of the U.S. Senate, none of these proposals is likely to even come to a vote in that chamber. As president, Biden can pursue some gun control measures through executive orders, but his ability to do so is limited.


Do you think the federal government should impose new restrictions on gun ownership?

Judge Upholds Washington Gun Control Initiative

Yesterday, a federal judge rejected arguments of plaintiffs seeking to overturn a Washington initiative that imposed new laws on gun purchases.


In 2018, Washington voters approved Initiative 1639 to prohibit 18- and 19-year-olds from purchasing semi-automatic rifles and ban the sale of those guns to residents of other states, as well as require a stricter background check for in-state residents purchasing such guns. Opponents of the initiative, including the National Rifle Association, argued that it violated the Constitution.


U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton disagreed. He granted the State of Washington's request to dismiss the case, saying that the initiative was constitutionally permissible.


Washington's attorney general had defended the initiative in court, pointing out that the restrictions it imposed had not been struck down by the Supreme Court. The plaintiffs, however, argued that they infringed upon the Second Amendment rights of individuals.


The backers of Initiative 1639 said it is necessary to prevent people from accessing high-powered weapons. They say that semi-automatic rifles are more dangerous than other guns, and that there should be more restrictions on them. Opponents of this initiative pushed back against the idea that these rifles are any more dangerous than other guns, saying this assertion has no basis in fact. They also noted that these types of guns are used in very few crimes.


Do you think that there should be stricter laws governing the possession of semi-automatic rifles?

NY Sues to Disband the NRA

The New York attorney general has filed suit to dismantle the National Rifle Association (NRA), a move she says is necessitated by serious misconduct within the organization.


Letitia James announced the suit today, alleging that NRA President Wayne LaPierre and other defendants "fostered a culture of noncompliance and disregard for internal controls that led to the waste and loss of millions of assets and contributed to the NRA's current deteriorated financial state." The NRA has lost $64 million over the past three years.


The lawsuit alleges a variety of questionable spending by the organization's officials, including the use of private jets and international vacations. The attorney general alleges that those in charge of the NRA used it as a "piggy bank" to divert funds benefiting themselves instead of furthering the goals of the organization. The NRA's corporate charter is in New York, and that state's law allows organizations to be disbanded because of such misconduct.


The NRA disagrees with this characterization, however. It says that this suit is politically-motivated, noting that Attorney General James supports gun control. Wayne LaPierre rejects claims that he misspent funds.


This lawsuit will work its way through the New York court systems. Even if the attorney general can prove her claims against the defendants, courts could impose sanctions that are less stringent than disbanding the NRA.


Do you support New York's lawsuit to shut down the NRA?

High Court Avoids Taking Stand in Gun Case

The Supreme Court today avoided making a decision that could have had a big impact on gun control laws across the country.


The case involved a New York city laws that prohibited licensed gun owners from transporting their guns to most places. Gun owners challenged this law, saying it restricted their rights to keep and bear arms. The city eventually changed the law, but the challengers continued to press their case in court.


The Supreme Court decided that since the law was no longer in effect, they did not need to make a decision about it. Some gun rights supporters viewed this case as a prime opportunity for the court to define the extent of Second Amendment protections for transporting firearms.


The case centered on an ordinance that restricted licensed gun owners from taking their firearms to any places except specified shooting ranges within the city and to designated hunting areas in New York state. The plaintiffs in the case were barred from participating in a shooting competition in New Jersey and were also told they could not take their guns to another home in New York state. They are arguing that these restrictions are an infringement upon their constitutional rights.


Since New York city has since amended the law to allow wider transport of firearms, the justices decided that the case is moot and dismissed it. Three justices dissented, however, indicating that they would have used this case as a way to recognize a wider individual right to carry a firearm.


This is the first major gun control case considered by the high court since 2010. There have been a handful of cases in the years prior to that which established an individual right to own a gun and said that neither the federal nor state governments could pass laws that prohibited gun ownership. However, the Supreme Court has yet to settle many legal issues over the numerous gun control laws that exist at the federal, state, and local level.


Do you think the Supreme Court should have decided that the Constitution protects the carrying of a gun outside the home?

Virginia Legislators Tackle Gun Control, Abortion, ERA

With Virginia voters last year giving Democrats complete power in Richmond, this year’s legislative session has seen the passage of numerous bills on hot-button issues. Here are some of the notable bills that were discussed or passed by legislators this week:


  • Enacting gun control. The House of Delegates passed legislation that would impose background checks on private gun sales, limit the purchase of handguns to one per month, and allow police to seize the firearms of someone they deem a threat. Similar legislation had already passed the state senate.
  • Loosening abortion restrictions. Both houses of the legislature have passed bills that would end the 24-hour waiting period before a woman can get an abortion, the requirement that doctors show a woman an ultrasound prior to abortion, and certain mandates on abortion clinics.
  • Passing the Equal Rights Amendment. The House of Delegates took a final vote to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Although the congressionally-mandated deadline has passed to ratify the amendment, Virginia becomes the last state necessary to add it to the Constitution. There will now be a legal fight over whether Congress can put a time limit on ratification.
  • Ending legislator immunity from arrest. After a state delegate was stopped on suspicion of drunk driving but was let go without being arrested, it prompted many to call for a change to the state constitution. A current provision in the constitution gives legislators immunity from arrest while the legislature is in session. This week, a senator introduced a constitutional amendment that would end that immunity.


Do you support ending the 24-hour-waiting period for abortions? Should handgun purchases be limited to one per month? Should legislators be immune from arrest during session?

Gun Control Advancing in Virginia

Democrats are now in charge of the two houses of the Virginia legislature and the governor’s mansion. They are taking advantage of this opportunity to push through gun control bills that had long been stopped by Republicans.


Among the bills moving through the legislature in Richmond:

  • Banning firearms from the capitol building complex, including firearms carried by law enforcement, legislators, and those with concealed weapons permits
  • Limiting handgun purchases to one per month
  • Mandating background checks for all firearms purchases, including private sales between individuals
  • Permitting local governments more leeway in enacting gun bans for certain events
  • Giving police the ability to remove guns from someone’s possession if they think that person poses a threat of imminent harm


Democratic Virginia legislators have long tried to pass these bills, but Republicans who controlled the legislature quashed these efforts. Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, called legislators into special session last year to consider gun control bills. Republican leaders adjourned the session without doing so.


In the 2019 elections, however, Virginia voters gave Democrats control of both legislative bodies for the first time in years. With Northam still in the governor’s mansion, it set up a situation where Republicans no longer had the votes to thwart gun control bills. This is what Democrats have focused on in the early days of the legislative session.


Those pushing these bills say they are necessary to reduce gun violence and protect Virginians. Opponents counter that gun control targets law-abiding gun owners and that there is little evidence that it actually reduces crime.


Do you support limiting handgun purchases to one per month? Should all gun sales, even private sales, be subject to background checks?


Second Amendment Sanctuary Cities Come to Virginia

Virginia legislators are gearing up to pass a number of new gun control bills starting January. While it is unclear exactly what will be proposed in the legislature, local officials are already fighting back. They are passing resolutions declaring their counties “Second Amendment sanctuaries,” saying that they want to stand up for gun rights in the face of unconstitutional laws.


Gun control legislation has stalled for years in the Virginia legislature. Democratic governors have pushed for a variety of bills to restrict the sale and ownership of firearms, but Republican legislative leaders have rejected these proposals. But last year, Democrats took control of the legislature. Many of the new members have vowed to enact gun bills, something that Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam supports.


This has prompted city and county governments across Virginia to pass resolutions declaring that they will support the Second Amendment and refuse to enforce what they see as unconstitutional gun laws. These resolutions are similar to what is being done by some local governments in other states in response to gun laws.


While a local government can express opposition to state gun laws, it has no authority to prevent such laws from being enforced within its jurisdiction. State law overrides local law. Law enforcement have a duty to enforce state law, although they do have discretion on how they conduct such enforcement.


While this movement echoes the label of the sanctuary policies that cities, counties, and states have declared regarding immigration, there is one key difference. Those policies affected local and state cooperation with federal immigration laws. The federal government has no power to compel these law enforcement entities to enforce federal law. States do have the power to compel local police and sheriffs to enforce state law.


Gov. Northam has been vague about what he will do in reaction to these sanctuary policies. There have been no new state gun control laws enacted, so it remains to be seen what will happen once these laws go into effect. Gov. Northam has said there could be repercussions for local law enforcement officials who do not comply with state law.


Do you think that local governments should declare they will not enforce state gun control laws they view as unconstitutional?

Bloomberg Backs Federal Permits for Gun Owners

Michael Bloomberg has long championed gun control policies, both as a private citizen and as mayor of New York. Now that he’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination, he has unveiled a sweeping package of proposals that would enact a variety of new restrictions on gun purchases and ownership.


These are a few of the initiatives being proposed by Bloomberg:

  • Mandate a federal license prior to any individual purchasing a gun
  • Require every gun purchase complete a background check
  • Enact a federal “red flag” law that allows police to seize guns from individuals who are suspected of being a threat
  • Prohibit individuals from publishing plans for 3-D guns online
  • Raise the federal age to purchase guns to 21
  • Ban “assault weapons”
  • Enact a law that sets federal rules on how individuals store their guns
  • Increase funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms as well as funding for gun violence research
  • Mandate a 48-hour waiting period for gun purchases
  • Require gun owners to report if their guns are lost or stolen within 3 days
  • Repeal the federal law that restricts lawsuits against gun manufacturers


Many of these proposals are also backed by other candidates running for the Democratic nomination. However, Bloomberg has a long history of gun control advocacy. He has donated significant sums of money to organizations and candidates who has pushed this issue, and he’s making it a centerpiece of his campaign.


According to Bloomberg, these new federal restrictions are necessary to stem the tide of gun violence. He sees them as a way to reduce gun deaths and make our communities safer. Opponents, however, say that they will only infringe upon the rights of lawful gun owners. They also argue that many of these ideas infringe upon the Second Amendment.


Do you support requiring a federal license for someone who wants to purchase a gun? Should there be a 48-hour waiting period for gun purchases?

Supreme Court Hears Challenge to NY Gun Law

For 18 years, New York City prohibited licensed gun owners from transporting their guns to most places. Today, the Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to that law which claims it is an unconstitutional infringement upon the rights of gun owners.


Under question is the city ordinance that restricts licensed gun owners from taking their firearms to any places except specified shooting ranges within the city and to designated hunting areas in New York state. The plaintiffs in the case were barred from participating in a shooting competition in New Jersey and were also told they could not take their guns to another home in New York state. They are arguing that these restrictions are an infringement upon their constitutional rights.


New York city has since amended the law to allow wider transport of firearms. The Supreme Court justices could decide that since city legislators have acted, the case is moot. Or they could use this case as a way to recognize a wider individual right to carry a firearm.


This is the first major gun control case considered by the high court since 2010. There have been a handful of cases in the years prior to that which established an individual right to own a gun and said that neither the federal nor state governments could pass laws that prohibited gun ownership. However, the Supreme Court has yet to settle many legal issues over the numerous gun control laws that exist at the federal, state, and local level.


Supporters of this challenge would like to see the court create a clear rule that defines how people may travel with their guns. Opponents fear that the court could undo gun control laws that they contend are necessary for safety.


A ruling in this case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. City of New York, is expected in June 2020.


Do you think the Second Amendment protects the carrying of a gun outside the home?

Gun Control on Colorado Legislative Agenda Next Year

This year, Colorado legislators passed a “red flag” gun law that allows police to seize firearms from individuals they see as threats. This was the first gun control bill passed in the state since 2013. Democratic legislators are vowing more gun bills next year.


The red flag legislation was controversial, leading to an unsuccessful recall campaign against its sponsor. But this has no deterred the Democrats who control the Colorado legislature from exploring more gun control bills for next year’s legislative session.


Among the bills being considered:

  • Mandating that businesses safely store firearms after business hours
  • Requiring individual gun owners to safely store their firearms
  • Make it a crime for gun owners to fail to report if their firearms have been stolen


Other states have adopted similar bills, but such proposals have been a tough sell in Colorado. The state, while trending Democratic recently, has a large rural population.


Supporters of these measures say that they are necessary to prevent gun violence and accidents. They say that law-abiding gun owners have nothing to fear from them. Opponents, however, see these bills as government infringing on their constitutional rights. They also note that criminals are unlikely to comply with the law, so the only people affected are law-abiding gun owners.


Do you support the government mandating how businesses and individuals store guns? Should gun owners be required to report when their guns are stolen?

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