As state legislatures across the country begin to close and the activity heats up in other states, the untold story of the 2017 legislative session is that gun safety continues to be a winning issue in states across the country.
For decades, the gun lobby had the field to itself, pushing dangerous laws with no significant opposition. But, since Everytown for Gun Safety was launched in 2014, that has changed. Everytown and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America with its 50 state chapters of active volunteers are the counterweight to the gun lobby – especially in state capitols.
Since the legislative session began in January, hundreds of volunteers with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America have descended en masse on statehouses to oppose dangerous gun lobby priorities and advance positive, proactive measures.
And their efforts are paying off. Here’s where things stand with 17 legislatures adjourned for the year.
Permitless Carry is Losing in State … after State … after State (Not Just the Blue Ones)
For years, the gun lobby has pushed to allow people without permits to be allowed to carry hidden, loaded weapons almost anywhere in public. Permitless carry bills seek to dismantle concealed carry permitting systems and allow people to carry hidden, loaded handguns in public with no permit and no safety training. In many cases, these bills would even authorize people with violent criminal histories to carry concealed guns in public.
In 2017, state lawmakers across the country are saying ‘no thanks’ to this reckless policy. So far this session, permitless carry bills have been rejected in eleven states: Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia.
These defeats are happening in red and blue states alike, including:
- Georgia, where the bill failed in the Republican-controlled state legislature;
- Kentucky, where the bill failed in the Republican-controlled state legislature;
- Montana, where the bill was vetoed by a Democratic governor;
- New Mexico, where the bill failed in a Democratically controlled statehouse; and
- South Dakota, where the bill was vetoed by a Republican governor, and the GOP- controlled House failed to override him. In his veto message, Gov. Dennis Daugaard wrote, “As a longtime member of the NRA, I support the right to bear arms. South Dakota’s current permit process is simple and straightforward, and permits can be obtained in a matter of minutes. It is paramount that our state protect the rights of our citizens while at the same time protecting the lives of our citizens.”
Bills to Protect Domestic Violence Victims Becoming Law in Red States
Since 2013, 23 states have moved to pass laws that keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. These measures have been enacted in every region of the country and have passed with strong bipartisan support.
These bills are significant because there is a lethal link between gun violence and domestic violence: The presence of a gun in a domestic abuse situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed.
Guns on Campus Bills Face Defeat
This year 19 states have introduced legislation to legalize or expand the presence of guns on campus, and at the mid-point of many legislative sessions, legislatures in four states have rejected or failed to pass this legislation: Kentucky, New Mexico, West Virginia and Wyoming. In Wyoming, the bill was defeated in a bipartisan vote on the Senate floor.
Only one state, Arkansas, has enacted a guns on campus bill in 2017, and under pressure from the medical community and the Southeastern Conference, this law was modified soon afterward to prohibit firearms from college sporting events, day cares and hospitals.
In 2016, 18 state legislatures introduced guns on campus legislation, and our Moms Demand Action volunteers helped defeat it in 17 states.
Gun Safety Prevails in … Montana
Contrary to the gun lobby’s spin that only coastal elites favor common-sense gun laws, gun safety has prevailed all year in Montana, a state with a proud hunting and sporting tradition.
So far this year, Montana Governor Steve Bullock vetoed a bill that would have enacted permitless carry. And he returned a guns in restaurants bill to legislators stating that “Montanans recognize that guns and alcohol in public places don’t mix.” And the Montana House rejected a bill with bipartisan opposition that would have forced guns into K-12 schools.
Background Check Repeal Stopped in Iowa
There has been ample coverage of the fact that a recent Iowa bill makes Iowa only the second state to enact a new Stand Your Ground law since the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012. That is dangerous indeed.
But the original version of House File 517 would have also repealed Iowa’s law requiring background checks on handgun sales. Another provision would have dismantled Iowa’s permit requirement for concealed carry and let people carry hidden, loaded handguns in Iowa without a permit.
The fact that lawmakers took these reckless provisions out of the bill during the legislative process is no accident. It is due to the hard work of committed Iowans, including Moms Demand Action volunteers, who testified in Des Moines and who showed up in district forum after district forum. And it reflects the broad recognition — among both Democratic and Republican lawmakers—that the background check repeal and permitless carry provisions were far too extreme, even for a state with strong Republican majorities.
We’re in This for the Long Haul
Our Moms Demand Action volunteers are engaged as never before, participating in more than 50 advocacy days in 31 states so far this year with more than 2,100 people attending. These advocacy days and other events have led to Moms Demand Action volunteers being a part of more than 700 in-person meetings with state legislators.
But we are just getting started. Our volunteers will not stand idly by when legislators try to put the interests of the gun lobby ahead of the overwhelming majority of Americans who demand they do more to prevent gun violence.
As Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts always says, “This is a marathon, not a sprint. No matter how long it takes to pass common-sense laws to prevent gun violence and save lives, we will never stop fighting. Our volunteers are in this for the long haul.”