If you think gun control legislation hasn’t moved in this country since the Newtown shooting, think again. There’s been plenty of activity in the states, even though no gun legislation has passed through Congress. And while states that passed tougher restrictions on gun ownership receive plenty of attention, several states have moved in the opposite direction.
Lawmakers in Connecticut, one of the latest states to take action, approved a package early Thursday beefing up gun laws. Here’s a look at states that have passed or considered gun legislation since the Newtown shooting:
APPROVED MORE GUN RESTRICTIONS
When: Passed and signed into law Jan. 15.
What it does: The SAFE Act expands the types of guns that fall under the New York’s assault weapons ban and requires those who already own such newly-banned guns to register them. The law also requires background checks on private gun sales, except when guns are sold to immediate family members; reduces lawful magazines from 10 to seven bullets; requires health care workers to notify local health officials if they think a patient will cause serious harm to themselves or others; and increases sentences on some gun crimes.
Why it matters: New York was the first state to pass sweeping gun control legislation after the Newtown shooting, and it’s one of the nation’s toughest. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo – a potential 2016 presidential candidate – pushed hard for the bill’s passage and his early stance on gun control could position him as a leader on the issue if he chooses to run for president. That law's effectiveness in reducing crime will determine his legacy. There’s already backlash brewing: many counties in the state have passed anti-SAFE Act resolutions, and he’s drawn trouble for a provision restricting magazines to seven rounds. It turns out manufacturers don’t make seven-round clips, which critics have jumped on to accuse him of passing the law too fast. Cuomo’s approval rating in Quinnipiac's survey dropped by 19 points since December as he’s lost a significant chunk of Republican support.
When: Passed the week of March 13 and signed into law March 20.
What it does: The gun control laws limit magazines to 15 rounds and expands background checks while requiring a fee for them.
Why it matters: Although Colorado is home to several high-profile mass shootings, it’s home to many gun owners. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has faced some backlash from sheriffs over enforcing the law – which wouldn’t bode well for other Democrats from gun-owning states who are considering gun control legislation. The Colorado law was a much-needed win for gun control advocates; Vice President Joe Biden even personally lobbied Colorado legislators ahead of its passage.
When: Lawmakers approved a deal early Thursday.
What it does: The package expands the list of banned assault weapons; limits magazines to 10 rounds and requires current owners of such guns to register them with the state; bans armor-piercing bullets; closes the background check gun show loophole; and expands mental health research and mental health training for teachers.
Why it matters: All eyes will be on the state where the Newtown massacre took place, as the emotional weight behind the package looms large. To be clear, not all gun control proponents are pleased; families of 11 Sandy Hook victims made a last-minute plea to include a complete ban of high-capacity magazines, which didn’t make it into the deal lawmakers reached Monday. But don’t expect to see strong opposition –a bipartisan group put the package together, and Republican lawmakers are trying to reassure gun owners.
When: Lawmakers approved gun legislation Wednesday.
What it does: Gov. Martin O’Malley’s initial proposal has been altered by lawmakers numerous times, and there are some differences between the state’s House and Senate version. But common ground includes a requirement to submit fingerprints in order to get a handgun license; limiting magazine rounds to 10 bullets; and an assault weapons ban. He could sign the version the House of Delegates passed Wednesday.
Why it matters: Maryland is a solidly Democratic state, so it’s not surprising that gun control legislation could pass. And O’Malley, like Cuomo, is a potential 2016 presidential candidate, so his push for stricter gun control would also allow him to position himself to the left of others running for the presidential nomination. But it’s also a political risk; if there are problems implementing his law, it would stain O’Malley’s record.
EXPANDED GUN OWNERS’ RIGHTS
When: Passed the Senate on March 27 and a final version will likely be hashed out this week.
What it does: The law would expand the types of public buildings where people can carry concealed weapons. A provision allows public school and college employees to carry weapons, and lets local school boards determine which employees can carry concealed guns, even if they are banned from the buildings.
Why it matters: The law, which allows for educators to carry concealed guns if they are banned on campus, is designed to allow for more guns in schools rather than restrict them. It’s similar to what the NRA is advocating; any problems resulting from the law will have implications for the pro-gun lobby’s strategy.
When: The state House passed a bill Feb. 25.
What it does: A gun “nullification” bill – similar to those passed on Utah and Wyoming – says state gun laws override federal ones. Federal agents could be charged with felonies if they try to enforce any future semi-automatic weapons or ammunition bans or gun registration requirement. Such laws are largely political responses to national calls for further gun control, and likely won’t pass constitutional muster. A number of other gun bills are under consideration in Alaska.
Why it matters: Alaska is represented by Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, who is up for re-election in 2014. He called the gun nullification law “unconstitutional,” but the fact that such a law overwhelmingly passed the state House underscores the depth of pro-gun sentiment in this solidly Republican state. It also shows just how hard it will be to get moderate Democrats to support strengthening gun control in the Senate. Also worth noting: Republican Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who is weighing a Senate run, attended Sandy Hook Elementary, but he opposes increasing federal gun control laws and wants to focus on improving the mental health system.
VETOED BILL RELAXING GUN LAWS
When: On March 22, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed a bill lawmakers passed earlier in the month.
What it does: Under the proposed law, gun owners could have carried concealed guns without a concealed weapons permit.
Why it matters: Herbert’s veto of the controversial law goes to show that Republican governors in very pro-gun states can still rein in state houses moving far to the right on gun rights. And even though there’s been talk about organizing an effort to override the veto, it seems unlikely now. Some lawmakers who voted for the measure were hesitant to oppose any pro-gun bill, and they’d “just as soon not vote on it again” said state Sen. Allen Christensen, the bill’s sponsor.
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