State of Gun Legislation
When most Americans think of gun legislation, they think of the Second Amendment or bills being introduced and endlessly fought over by both sides of Congress.
However, most gun legislation actually occurs at the state level of government. This results in interesting changes to gun laws and the way they affect local citizens.
To put it into perspective, state governments regulate everything from gun permits and firearm sales to types of carry. For this reason, it’s essential for gun owners to be aware of recent legislation in their own states.
On the other hand, it’s also important to understand gun laws going into effect in other states, as they might affect overall gun legislation in the future.
To help keep you up-to-date, here are a few recent state-level gun laws recently passed.
On July 1, 2019, an emergency-responder firearm law took effect in Florida that could result in similar legislation in other states.
This law allows paramedics to carry firearms when responding to high-risk situations, such as shootings, drug raids, hostage scenarios and attempted armed suicide.
The law also states paramedics aren’t subject to mandatory retreat, and instead are justified in defending themselves and others with force when threatened with bodily harm. Kansas and Ohio have similar emergency responder firearm laws in effect.
The primary push behind Florida’s recent legislation is self-protection for those whose job it is to respond to potentially threatening and violent situations.
The measure stipulates professionals who wish to carry firearms on the job are required to complete annual firearm training for safety and tactics.
California is known for having some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. As a result of a 2016 ballot initiative, Californians must undergo criminal background checks every time they purchase ammunition beginning July 1, 2019.
The state Department of Justice is responsible for administering the background check system, which will use the state’s existing gun-owner database as a foundation.
However, this can cause issues for those who purchased guns prior to the state registry enactment and other unregistered gun situations. In addition, this new legislation puts significant pressure and burden on ammunition retailers.
Though this California firearm law is being challenged by many residents, the hope is the background checks will reduce the number of illegal gun owners and the level of gun violence in the state.
July 2019 also sees a variety of new gun legislation in Indiana. The most significant law signed into effect ensures immunity for justified use of force in situations where persons reasonably believe it’s necessary.
This includes immunity for justified use of force in cases where a person believes it’s needed to prevent serious injury or a forcible felony.
The implication of this law applies primarily to civil suits where immunity for justified use of force is regularly at issue. For defendants who are successfully awarded such immunity, the law also compels the court to award them reasonable court costs.
Other parts of this Indiana firearm legislation allow for firearm carry into churches (even if school is present) unless prohibited by the landowner, and free short-term carry licenses beginning next year.
Washington’s governor signed seven new gun control bills this year.
One of the measures addresses what is considered “undetectable and untraceable firearms” in the form of printable 3-D gun files. Washington has outlawed sending such files to anyone who is ineligible to possess an actual firearm.
Other Washington gun legislation changes include: strengthening law enforcement measures against citizens under 18 possessing firearms, requiring FBI fingerprint background checks for concealed pistol permits and court evaluation of defendants’ histories of violent acts in dismissing non-felony charges when such defendants are deemed incompetent to stand trial.
Much of this new firearm legislation in Washington is intended to reduce criminal firearm activity and gun violence. However, many residents argue such measures conflict with Second Amendment rights.
New gun laws often go into effect in response to unfortunate incidents of gun violence. This is the case in Texas, where a gunman killed 26 people in a Sutherland Springs church.
In response, the Texas house legislature passed a bill allowing handgun owners to legally carry weapons in places of worship.
The push for this bill in the Texas House and Senate came from a sense that people need means of defense when innocent lives are targeted in public places. Upon final approval, the bill will be sent to the Texas governor.
Individual churches can prohibit licensed citizens from carrying firearms on premises, but they must provide official oral or written notice.
Though changes in gun legislation seem stagnant at the federal level, there are many new gun laws regularly taking effect in individual states. Gun owners are responsible for knowing regulations set forth in their states, including any gun legislation changes.
These changes often reflect the intention of lawmakers, gun-owners and other citizens to strike a balance between individual safety and defense, protected firearm rights and mitigation of gun violence.
They also reflect common themes that concern all Americans, such as presence of guns in church, background checks and gun-making software.
Interested and responsible citizens can influence state gun legislation by understanding existing state laws, staying informed of potential changes and voting for regulations they support.