The families and friends of the victims killed in Virginia Beach on Friday, May 31st, are held close in our thoughts. As we experience this once again and digest the news, it can make us question if anything has changed in the last few years. The media coverage, unfortunately, can also perpetuate the false narrative that little has changed because they do not thoughtfully research or follow the gun violence movement with sustained dedication. But there is substantial progress. Just this year 20 states passed stronger gun laws with nine Republican Governors signing legislation. Please take comfort in knowing that the gun violence prevention movement continues to grow in size, scope, and diversity.
This update includes the following:
- Wear Orange June 7
- League’s Work on Gun Violence Across the State
- Recap of the General Assembly
- Progress in State Houses Across the Country
- Federal Level
This is the 5th year for the National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange campaign to raise awareness of gun violence. The color orange honors the 100 lives cut short and hundreds more wounded by gun violence every day. There are 700 community events scheduled nationwide. Text ORANGE to 644-33 to find a #WearOrange event near you to attend. Or go here https://wearorange.org/
Local Leagues’ Work on Gun Violence Across the State
Local Leagues have been active in raising awareness this year. To recap a few:
-The Charlottesville Area League held a Sunday Seminar on March 17 to recap the General Assembly’s action (and inaction) on gun legislation and progress and momentum of the GVP movement.
– The Williamsburg Area League sponsored a community discussion on May 13 to hear from GVP advocates on priorities for next year.
-The Charlottesville Area League worked in collaboration with Moms Demand Action and the Charlottesville Coalition for Prevention of Gun Violence on a Be SMART presentation (June 2)
-The Fairfax Area League is a community partner for the Wear Orange June 7th event in Alexandria
-The Arlington League is working in collaboration for the Wear Orange June 7th event in Clarendon
Recap of General Assembly
This year a total of 58 gun bills were introduced. 32 in the House and 26 in the Senate. While analysis can be subjective on whether the legislation is good or bad public policy, general consensus among the gun violence prevention groups resulted in the following breakdown.
House 32 total: Good (18) Bad (3) peripheral/neutral (11)
Senate 26 total: Good (18) Bad (6) peripheral/neutral (2)
All strong/good bills were defeated/tabled in the Senate early (January). All strong/good House bills were defeated.
The Governor vetoed the following bad bills:
- HB2142 Weakening of School Resource Officers (SRO) standards (vetoed on 3/26)
- HB 2253 (de facto concealed carry) vetoed on March 12
- SB1251 (manufacturing/distribution switchblades)
Four bad bills advanced but fell short in committee or floor
- SB1012 concealed carry by first responders
- SB 1024 guns in church
- SB1207 weakening of SPO (school security) standards
- SB1321 licensed family day homes left in MPPS on 2/19
There were mixed views on HB1656 SROs in private/religious schools. The Governor approved and signed into law on February 21. Goes into effect July 1.
While extreme risk protection orders (ERPO) laws also known as “red flag” laws were introduced in the House (Sullivan HB1763) and Senate (Barker SB1458) they did not advance out of committees.
Progress in State Houses
In 2019 three states enacted ERPO laws to build upon the eight states, which enacted ERPO laws in 2018 – this now brings the total to 15 states. Legislation is pending in 15 additional states. Nevada and New Mexico both passed universal background checks this year. Nevada was a long hard fight that took 6 years. Legislation to enact or strengthen background checks are pending in 15 states. North Dakota strengthened their domestic violence gun laws and at least 18 more states have legislation pending to close loopholes in domestic violence. In Connecticut, Ethan’s law expanding safe storage, a bill to ban untraceable firearms and a requirement to secure firearms in vehicles have all passed the Senate and are headed to the Governor. These are just a few to illustrate the progress. For Gabby Giffords trend watch go here https://lawcenter.giffords.org/resources/trendwatch/
The U.S. House passed HR 8, universal background checks and HR 1112, a bill to close the “Charleston loophole” in February. In April the House Democrats proposed $50 million in funding for gun violence prevention research. If passed, it would mark the first time in more than 20 years that spending was included for this type of research. The two bills are likely to stall in the Senate. The funding may have a better than 50/50% chance.
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Firearms Safety Task Force
Ruth Hoffman, Co-Chair Firearms Safety Task Force