STATE POLITICS JANUARY 15, 2013
In the month since the Newtown massacre, there has been an onslaught of state legislation related to guns—both to broaden, and restrict, owners’ rights. With Vice President Joe Biden scheduled to present his gun-violence task force’s recommendations on Tuesday, and New York state reportedly poised to vote on comprehensive gun legislation, here’s a roundup of ten measures being pushed around the country.
Less than a week after Sandy Hook, a Republican delegate introduced legislation that would allow school employees with concealed-weapons permits to bring their guns to work. Each employee seeking to bring his or her weapon onto school grounds would need approval from the school board and could not have a history of violence. But even in the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, such a bill is far from a sure bet. After the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, a representative tried to pass a similar bill that would have allowed concealed carry on public school grounds, but the bill died on the House floor.
Members of the New Jersey Legislature introduced 18 bills related to gun control at the start of the 2013 session. One of the more controversial ones: a bill that would require people seeking a gun permit to undergo a psychological evaluation. Under the proposal introduced by Democratic Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez, prospective gun owners would submit to the same kind of evaluation performed on police officers. Her bill would also call for police officers to inspect prospective gun owners’ homes to determine if the weapon would be properly kept away from children and the mentally ill. If it passes, the law would rank among the strictest in the country.
After the Illinois General Assembly failed to act on gun control during its recent lame-duck session, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel took matters into his own hands. The former White House chief of staff is drafting a Chicago-only gun ordinance that he hopes will push state legislators to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, according to the Chicago-Sun Times. It is unclear exactly what his ordinance will entail, but the mayor’s team expects—and is ready—for whatever Emanuel passes to be challenged in court.
It’s not surprising that the legislature in Newtown’s home state is seeking stricter gun laws. But one proposal introduced in the reliably blue General Assembly is already proving controversial. Rep. Stephen Dargan’s measure would call for the names and addresses of Connecticut’s 170,000 handgun permit owners to be made public under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. If passed, this would reverse a law enacted in the state nearly two decades ago that deemed this information private. The bill has received heightened interest because of the debate over the New York Journal News’ decision to publish a map identifying the names and addresses of local gun owners.
Charles Gregory, a freshman state representative that the Atlantic dubbed “one of the most zealously pro-gun legislators in America,” introduced four bills that would largely obliterate any restrictions on carrying firearms in Georgia. The bills would declare that “evil resides in the heart of the individual, not in material objects” and would allow people to carry guns pretty much anywhere, including college campuses and churches. It would also prohibit the governor from suspending guns sales during an emergency. Gregory represents a district that includes Kennesaw, the only place in America where it is required for households to own at least one gun.
A gunman murdered Rep. Rhonda Fields’s son in 2005. Now, the Democratic representative from Aurora is pushing to tighten the state’s gun laws through two proposed bills. One would close a longstanding loophole that allows people purchasing a gun through a private transaction to forgo a background check. The other is similar to many others being pushed throughout the country and would ban magazine clips that have 50 and 100 rounds.
A bill proposed by Del. Bob Marshall would require school districts to designate at least one qualified person to carry a concealed weapon on school grounds. Gov. Bob McDonnell has said there should be a discussion on whether people with concealed-carry permits should be allowed to carry firearms in schools, but he has not gone as far as saying it should be required. Meanwhile, two Northern Virginia lawmakers have introduced legislation that would close the state’s gun-show loophole, which allows unlicensed arm dealers to sell at gun shows without conducting background checks.
Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to unveil an ambitious package of gun-control measures to the General Assembly later this week. Under his plan, nearly all prospective gun owners—except those purchasing hunting rifles and shotguns—would be required to provide fingerprints to state police. Prospective gun owners would have to complete a weapon familiarization and gun-safety course, and submit to a background check, in order to obtain a license. O’Malley is also seeking a ban on assault weapons and restrictions on gun ownership for the mentally ill.
In anticipation of an executive order banning assault weapons, several Wyoming legislators introduced the “Firearms Protection Act”—a bill that would make any assault weapon ban unenforceable within the state. Anyone who tries to enforce the federal ban would be slapped with a felony charge. A Texas legislator is working on a similar bill, which would trump any executive order banning assault weapons or limiting the size of gun magazines. Although these laws would likely be challenged in court, the lawmakers behind them insist on their constitutionality, citing the Second and Tenth Amendments.
Two lawmakers are pushing a bill that would allow state agencies and local governments to decide whether they want to prohibit concealed firearms inside public buildings and at some public events. Currently, a concealed-carry license allows Floridians to carry a weapon in most places in the state. The law is likely to face resistance in the GOP-controlled legislature, and some legislators are already arguing that the restrictions proposed by the bill violate the Second Amendment.