The tragedy in Charleston last week refocused the nation’s attention on the state of gun politics and some have presumed that Washington’s intransigence means that the movement to keep Americans safe from gun violence has stalled out. They’re wrong – and our progress defeating NRA-backed bills and passing common-sense laws in statehouses across the country is the proof.
When Everytown for Gun Safety launched in 2014, we said we would be a counterweight to the gun lobby – especially in state capitols where the NRA has not seen an organized opposition to its agenda in decades, which allowed the gun lobby to systematically weaken laws, making it easy for dangerous people to access guns.
In 2015, we’ve done just that. With at least 38 state legislatures already closed for the year, we have successfully killed or watered down more than 40 NRA priority bills in states across the country. And we have done more than play defense: We ran successful campaigns to pass common-sense gun laws in the face of strenuous NRA opposition in states with strong traditions of gun ownership like Oregon and Vermont.
Oregon Becomes 18th State to Require Background Checks, Nevada Up Next
In case you missed it, last month Oregon passed legislation to require criminal background checks on all gun sales. This victory, just six months after voters in Washington State passed background checks by ballot measure, makes Oregon the 18th state in the country to require background checks on all handgun sales – and the sixth state to pass background check legislation since Newtown.
Contributing to this significant victory, Everytown released research on how background checks reduce gun violence, put up ads across the state and led a coalition of our more than 60,000 supporters in Oregon to pass the bill. As The Oregonian cited after the bill passed, during the 2014 elections, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund strategically invested in Oregon to turn out Gun Sense Voters during the November 2014 elections – and the result was a gun sense majority that passed the background check legislation.
And as a follow-up to the successful ballot initiative in Washington State, Nevada qualified a background check initiative for November 2016 – with a record number of signatures.
Six States Keep Guns Out of the Hands of Domestic Abusers
Six states – Alabama, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, and Washington – have already enacted legislation this year to protect victims of domestic violence by keeping guns out of the hands of their abusers.
Vetoes in Red and Blue States Show Governors Not Afraid to Stand Up to NRA
Contrary to the conventional wisdom about the power of the NRA, we emboldened a number of governors to buck the NRA and veto the gun lobby’s priority legislation.
- In West Virginia, Governor Ray Tomblin vetoed S.B. 347 – legislation pushed by the NRA that would have dismantled the state’s concealed carry permitting system by allowing people to carry concealed, loaded guns in public with no permit and no training required.
- In Montana, Governor Steve Bullock vetoed two dangerous gun bills – HB 533 and HB 298 – that would have compromised public safety by dismantling the state’s current concealed carry permitting system and enabling people to carry concealed, loaded weapons in public with absolutely no training and no permit. In his veto letter for HB 298, Governor Bullock called permitless carry “an absurd concept that threatens the safety of our communities.”
- In Michigan, Republican Governor Rick Snyder vetoed SB 789 – legislation pushed by the NRA that would have undermined vital protections for domestic violence victims by allowing some of their abusers to carry loaded, concealed handguns.
- In New Hampshire, Governor Maggie Hassan has said she will veto SB 116, legislation that repeals the permit requirement for carrying concealed, loaded handguns in public in the state.
NRA Priority Bills Stopped in Key States Marks End of the Gun Lobby’s Free Rein
Our defeat of six dangerous gun lobby-backed bills in Florida – long a laboratory for extremist proposals (and the birthplace of Stand Your Ground laws) – led NRA past president and Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer to call the state’s 2015 session a “train wreck.”
In fact, more than 40 gun lobby priority bills, including efforts to force guns onto college campuses, and even allow guns in K-12 schools, as well as efforts to let people carry hidden, loaded guns in public without a permit, have been introduced and failed in states across the country. And Everytown has played a crucial role in these critical defeats.
- Guns on Campus. Bills that would have forced colleges and universities to allow people to carry guns on campus have been defeated in 14 states so far: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
- Guns in Schools. Bills that would have allowed people to carry guns in K-12 schools have been defeated in 15 states so far:
Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.
- Permitless Carry. Bills that would have dismantled state concealed carry systems and let people carry concealed handguns in public with no permit and no training have failed in 15 states so far:
Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia – and a veto is expected on a permitless carry bill in New Hampshire soon.
- Repealing Background Checks. Legislation was defeated that would have repealed the requirement that all gun buyers in Colorado, and all handgun buyers in Iowa, pass a criminal background check. A similar bill is expected to be defeated in North Carolina soon.
You Know You’re Winning When the Other Side Says They Lost…
Perhaps the best proof of how we’re changing gun politics in state legislatures is when the other side admits defeat – as was the case in Texas this legislative session. After a heated battle, a significantly watered-down version of a guns on campus bill passed and Students for Concealed Carry, a national advocacy group, told the Houston Chronicle, “As much as we dislike it, we must give the devil its due – we got outplayed on every front. We’re not happy about it, but we can admit when we’ve lost. We don’t need to hide behind a gutted bill to save face. We’ll try again in 2017.”
But just like this year, legislators will not be able to put the interests of the gun lobby ahead of the overwhelming majority of Americans who demand they do more to prevent gun violence. Our more than 2.5 million supporters are showing up at statehouses, making calls and sending emails to let legislators know that we expect them to oppose extremist gun lobby proposals to weaken gun laws and pass common-sense public safety measures that will save lives from gun violence.