The State We're In: Gun Legislation

Oct 1, 2018
Originally published on October 2, 2018 11:11 am

It’s been a year since 59 people were killed and hundreds more were injured in a mass shooting in Las Vegas. And it’s been a year that has seen more shootings, in Annapolis, Parkland, and cities across the country.

Gun control advocates have decried the lack of federal action on firearm legislation. And many state lawmakers haven’t been any busier than Congress on guns. So-called “bump stocks,” which were used in Las Vegas to allow semi-automatic weapons to fire faster, remain legal in much of the country. And The Associated Press found that while some states tightened gun control laws, “the year was not the national game-changer that gun-control advocates had hoped it could be.”

The major exceptions were Florida and Vermont.

Both states have Republican governors and long traditions of gun ownership. Lawmakers passed sweeping legislation after the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 14 students and three staff members and after a foiled school shooting plot in Vermont days later.

The law signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott banned bump stocks, raised the gun buying age to 21, imposed a three-day waiting period for purchases and authorized police to seek court orders seizing guns from individuals who are deemed threats to themselves and others. The latter provision has already been used hundreds of times, court data show.

Florida is a rare case in which gun laws approved by a Republican legislature and governor are being challenged in court by the NRA.

Maryland, too, has new laws going into effect banning bump stocks and limiting access convicted domestic abusers and potentially dangerous individuals can have to guns.

But as the AP reports, other states have expanded gun rights.

In Tennessee, county commissioners were granted the ability to carry concealed handguns in their workplaces. Oklahoma approved a bill allowing permit holders to carry handguns while scouting. Nebraska lawmakers enacted a long-sought bill shielding all documents related to gun permits from the state’s open records law.

In South Carolina, where a state senator was killed in the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, lawmakers rejected a simple bill requiring court clerks to enter convictions and restraining orders in a timely fashion to strip gun rights from people who have been disqualified from possessing firearms.

As part of our series The State We’re In, we look at how states respond to mass shootings, activism, and the Second Amendment.

Produced by Danielle Knight. Text by Gabe Bullard.


Scott Greenberger, Executive editor, Stateline, journalism project of the Pew Charitable Trusts; @sgreenberger

Kris Brown, Co-president, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; @KrisB_Brown

Richard Feldman, President, Independent Firearm Owners Association; author, “Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist”; former lobbyist, National Rifle Association

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