7 Ways States have Undermined Gun Control Laws (Lee)

Suevon Lee writes at ProPublica:

Friday’s deadly rampage at a Connecticut elementary school marked the 13th mass shooting in the United States this year. Among the 11 deadliest shootings in U.S. history, more than half took place in the last five years. During the same period, states have often relaxed their gun laws, making it easier for individuals to obtain guns, extending the places where concealed guns are permitted, or giving gun owners more robust protections.

We take a closer look at some of the more striking measures:

1. Five states allow students to carry concealed guns on college campuses     

A March 2012 Colorado Supreme Court decision held that the University of Colorado could not ban students and employees with state-issued concealed weapon permits from carrying guns on campus. The decision overturned the university’s long-standing gun ban. While school policy prohibits guns at ticketed athletic and cultural events, Boulder and Colorado Springs’ campuses now designate dorms for permit-carrying students. (Guns are still banned in other dorms). “Not a single student has asked to live where guns are allowed,” the Denver Post reported last month.

In September 2011, the Oregon Court of Appeals issued a similar ruling, allowing guns on campuses throughout the Oregon University system.

Wisconsin passed legislation in 2011 allowing college students in the University of Wisconsin school system to bring a concealed weapon on campus grounds, parking lots and “other spaces that aren’t enclosed,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal. The school can prohibit guns in buildings, but only if signs are posted at each entrance.

A law passed by the Mississippi State Legislature in 2011 broadly extended the places where concealed weapons are allowed, including college campuses, secondary schools, courthouses, polling locations, churches, bars and passenger terminals of an airport – places previously off-limits. This year, the University of Mississippi, which previously required students to leave guns in their vehicles, began allowing students to bring concealed weapons on campus, provided they have a concealed weapons permit and take an 8-hour training course.

Utah grants the least discretion: Since 2004, the state has prohibited any public college or university from banning concealed weapons, as campuses are considered state property.

2. Some states now allow you to bring guns into daycare centers, churches, and even “gun-free zones”

Last week, the Michigan Legislature passed a law that would allow concealed weapons in current “gun-free” zones such as schools, day care centers, bars, churches, hospitals and stadiums. Gun owners are required to receive eight hours of extra training before bringing guns into these places. The bill, which has yet to be signed into law, gives private business owners discretion to ban firearms on their property.

While Michigan’s legislation has gained attention given its timing to Friday’s shooting, it’s far from the only law of its kind. As we’ve already noted, Mississippi has also expanded the list of permissible concealed carry locations.

Elsewhere, loaded guns in bars are now allowed in Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia, Virginia and Ohio. Georgia lawmakers introduced legislation earlier this year that would expand the list of places where you can bring in a concealed weapon, proposing to allow them in colleges, places of worship and polling places.

Virginia, Louisiana and Maine allow firearms to be carried in state parks, state historic sites and state preservation areas. Recently passed federal legislation also allows the carrying of loaded guns in national parks, but only if state laws don’t interject.

3. You don’t have to be 18-years-old or sober to lawfully use a gun in some states

In Missouri, it’s no longer a crime for an intoxicated person to handle or fire a gun, so long as they were acting in self-defense.

Federal law prohibits licensed firearms dealers from selling a shotgun or rifle to anyone under 18, or handguns to anyone under 21. Still, some states impose minimum age limits that go below these federal limits.

For instance, in Vermont, it’s legal to sell a handgun or rifle to 16-year-olds. It’s legal to sell a rifle to a 16-year-old in Maine, Alaska, Minnesota or New York. In Montana, the legal age is 14, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a non-profit organization that tracks state gun laws.

4. Eight states have (symbolically) asserted their freedom to be exempt from federal gun regulation

Current federal gun laws set baseline standards regarding the sale and possession of guns. For instance, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act requires licensed gun dealers to perform background checks on prospective gun purchasers. And agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can conduct warrantless inspections of any licensed gun dealer – although, as we’ve previously noted, its authority has been hamstrung in recent years.

Still, eight states have passed resolutions stating that guns made and manufactured in-state shouldn’t be subject to federal regulation: Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, Arizona, Tennessee and Alaska.

The Montana gun activist behind the state’s legislation, whom the Wall Street Journal profiled, explained he felt he should be “free from federal laws requiring him to record transactions, pay license fees and open his business to government inspectors.”

The states’ moves are basically symbolic. The states are still following the few federal rules that exist.

But that could change. Montana Shooting Sports Association and Second Amendment Foundation have filed a lawsuit in federal court to enforce the law.

5. Some states want to make it a crime for doctors and employers to ask about your gun

In 2011, Florida became the first state to enact a law prohibiting any health care professional from asking patients whether they own guns or store them safely. A federal judge later struck down the law based on free speech grounds, stating that a physician who “counsels a patient on firearm safety…does not affect or interfere with the patient’s right to continue to own, possess or use firearms.”

Other states have followed in Florida’s footsteps: Alabama and North Carolina have introduced similar legislation in the last year.

In 2010, Indiana made it easier for people to store guns in their vehicles in a workplace parking lot. A year later, Indiana passed a law allowing job applicants and current employees to sue a private or public employer for requiring disclosure of firearm ownership or use.

6. Nearly half of states have adopted some type of “Stand Your Ground,” or “Shoot First” law

Florida and 24 other states have enacted “Stand Your Ground” laws that expand a person’s right to self-defense. Under these laws, individuals no longer have a duty to retreat to avoid confrontation in any place he or she has a right to be.

Florida was the first state to introduce such a law in 2005 – and many other states have followed suit. The law came into national spotlight when an unarmed 17-year-old teen, Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch guard in Florida earlier this year. The shooter, George Zimmerman, was not initially charged with a crime; he has since been charged with second-degree murder and awaits trial.

7. A few states make it easy for even violent felons to get their gun rights restored

The New York Times conducted an extensive investigation into this issue last year. The story reports that in 11 states, nonviolent felons have automatic restoration of their gun rights while a handful of other states allow felons convicted of violent crimes to regain their gun rights.

In Minnesota, for instance, violent felons can petition a court to regain their gun rights by showing “good cause.” There is no waiting period. In Ohio, a violent felon need only demonstrate to a judge that he or she has “led a law-abiding life” since they’ve left prison. In Washington State, felons can get their gun rights restored as long as they haven’t been convicted of any new crimes in five years. Under Washington State’s Hard Times for Armed Crimes Act, judges actually have no discretion to deny restoration based on a felon’s character or mental health.

Felons in other states have other ways to get their guns back: Georgia and Nebraska have granted a high number of pardons to restore felons’ right to bear arms even for those convicted of crimes like voluntary manslaughter or armed robbery.

And Montana makes it possible for felons to get their gun rights restored as long as they didn’t use a dangerous weapon in the commission of their crime.


10 Responses

  1. What the country needs is a well regulated militia. We let people buy guns under the premise that we need a well regulated militia – we don’t even have a militia, let alone a well regulated one. Certainly a well regulated militia would require its members to secure their weapons. It may also require its members to undergo yearly psychological testing to ensure their access to firearms. What we have now is out of control idiocy that lets anyone buy weapons and keep them in any state they want to in their homes – hardly well-regulated. It’s a national disgrace and embarrassment.

  2. Our gun culture is very bad but it would be a minor problem in comparison with the civil rights derailment by possible new legislation on detainment and treatment,-Civil Commitment Laws-, of “dangerous” people, adjudicated as such upon psychiatric testimony (psychiatric legal testimony for the State can be very lucrative; the State pays for it.)
    Such legislation would be based on a falsehood because psychiatry is not able to predict individual dangerous behavior. Psychiatrists can testify on the bases of personal experience and opinions but not on scientific evidence of dangerousness.
    The implementation of such legislation would lead to capricious, arbitrary, discriminatory detention and forced treatment of whomever the State or social group considers undesirable. We would be back to the Middle Ages: State-run, witch-hunting, evil- eradicating times.

    • And, NEL, where do you think we are now? The prison industrial complex that lobbies for more criminalizations of more conduct and longer sentences and MORE JAILS AND PRISON “BEDS,” a Pennsylvania judge railroading kids into a privatized “treatment jail” for bribes, a police state that funds itself off seizures and forfeitures of property or money in any remote way connected with “drug dealing” and of course is paid by the federal government to arm itself and enforce those Prohibition drug laws that warp our culture and secret drug dealings that fund CIA foolishness and evil, and create or augment failed nation-states like Mexico?

      Nice set of hypothetical horribles. I’ve seen the same and more, listed in other arguments by gun lovers and profiteers elsewhere, who then and now are scrambling for less obvious but still scary reasons why they should be allowed to have and to hold and to carry openly and concealed any damn firearm they have a mind to. In spite of, you know, “Columbine” and “Newtown” and stuff…

      And of course Warren, coming up next, is convinced that were he packing heat and on the scene, he would have “taken down” that monstrous kid before more than a few kids and teachers were killed…

      • I said nothing of the kind – but thanks for trying to put words in my mouth that were not there.

  3. There is no such thing as a “gun-free zone” – anyone who believes there is is setting themselves up for failure.

    It’s already a crime to commit murder (which is what happened in Newtown, for the record). The myth that a “gun-free zone” could exist only makes a criminal’s job easier.

    • Well, when your country is so full of crazy people that certainty of punishment is no longer sufficient deterrent against murder, what’s left?

      • If we had swift, certain punishment for crimes (and many countries do, btw) – the crime rate would drop: for example Singapore – their violent crime rate is exceptionally low because they follow-through on their threatened punishment.

        In the US, with the myriad appeals and technicalities that be filed, a criminal can be relatively certain that they have a good shot of getting a lighter sentence than is maximally possible.

        • See how simple it is, Super? Just run the country like Singapore! I bet the NRA and ACLU and even the Brady Bunch might find some common ground in “concern” about that. Any idea how many gun lovers who do stupid stuff with their pistoleros, or morph magically into criminals when they decide to kill their families out of despair over some Banksta-caused job loss and personal economic collapse and maybe even some illegal foreclosure on their home via some nationwide fraud in the RE Bubblespace, might also be a little concerned about actual real, swift, certain punishment for crimes? Any idea how many more formerly criminal acts would, courtesy of those with lots of Funny Munny, be suddenly rendered “not illegal?” Oh, that’s right — that’s already happening, and how quick do black people from the south and west sides of Chicago who are charged with a wide variety of crimes find themselves run through the machinery at 26th and California and into Joliet or other supermax prisons? The criminals with the “good shot” tend to wear $5,000 bespoke suits and Lucien Picard watches…

  4. The Gun Control Act of 1968 is rarely enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice. The vast majority of gun prosecutions occur at in the state court system by prosecutors at the county or municipal levels and even then the cases are pled down to lesser offenses or dismissed altogether after a probationary period is successfuly completed.

    A person who supplies a handgun to a minor is guilty under the 1968 of a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. A federal conviction can ordinarily only be expunged via executive clemency – which is rare. In practice, I have seen the federal law almost never used and many times city attorneys will charge an offender under a local ordinance because the local unit of government collects the fines and gets away with only a misdemeanor conviction or none at all under diversion programs that are implemented in most large metropolitan areas. Even in felony state prosecutions, many if not most first time offenders are prosecuted under state law and given diversion program status or allowed to plea to misdemeanors – especially if they have no criminal record or a negligible one. Those who are convicted under state law of felonies can often apply for expungement after a certain time frame.

    Obama’s rhetoric about the need for gun control is meaningless if the Office of United States Attorney in our respective federal districts have no resources to prosecute federal gun violations in individual cases. Right now the ATF focuses on gun trafficking enterprises and the FBI on criminal conspiracies that may employ firearms to enforce their agenda. The garden-variety citizen who may carry a handgun illegally to protect himself – as many do in crime-ridden inner city locales – will likely to continue to get their slap on the wrist in local courts.

    Judges, prosecutors, and police who vigorously enforce gun laws may find themselves unpopular with the conservative public. Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Clifford Taylor of the GOP was an outspoken proponent of gun control and vigorous police enforcement in general. He became the only Michigan chief justice in history to be voted out of office, in 2008. The pro-gun rights Libertarian justice nominee received an unheard of 9% of the statewide vote and drew enough votes from Taylor to ensure the liberal Democratic nominee was elected in an upset.

    Politicians may engage in political grandstanding to advance their gun control agenda – but expect stiff opposition from the pro-gun lobby.

  5. The glorifying of guns and the supposed “self-defense” seem to be widespread in the USA, but much rarer in civilised societies. Since all the leaders, with few exceptions, support the mighty military madness of the USA, and the MSM make sure everyone has plenty of advice from the corporations and lobbies, the attitude of “I must defend myself with a weapon” excludes normal reactions to everyday interactions with people who may differ from you but are not necessarily criminals or terrorists out to get you.

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