Another highly publicized piece of legislation which was recently enacted was the Colorado bill which institutes background checks for all gun sales and bans the sale of magazines which can hold more than 15 rounds. This act, like the Connecticut and New York legislation, received a great deal of attention as another victory for gun control advocates. The problem with so many of the news accounts, however, is that they spend so much time focusing on proposed restrictions and gun control legislation, that they give the impression that heightened gun control is the trend. To put it bluntly, such a notion is debatable at best.
For starters, the prospect of further Federal gun control legislation is in doubt even with President Obama’s hard-pressed campaign for such legislation, simply because of politics. First, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid de-railed Senator Feinstein’s proposed assault weapons ban before it could even reach a vote. Now, 2014 re-election campaigns for many of the politicians (whose votes will be needed to pass any gun control legislation) presents an obstacle as these politicians evaluate the impact that supporting the gun control legislation might have on their ability to get re-elected. Adding to the problems are Republican threats to filibuster any gun control bill and the fact gun control debate involves so many different controversial points and issues. All of these things combined make passing Federal gun legislation a daunting concept.
Perhaps adding insult to injury are President Obama and other politicians’ continued use of outdated and misleading statistics to push gun control. Numerous politicians have used the purported statistic that 40 percent of gun sales occur without a background check as part of their argument for adoption of universal background checks. The legitimacy of this statistic, however, has been publicly questioned on the basis that the survey from which it originates was conducted more than 20 years ago and even when published failed to provide any clear evidence of how many sales actually occur without background checks because of vague, ambiguous and uncertain answers which were included in the survey.
Given that background checks are considered to be the most debated aspect of any new Federal legislation, the debate about this statistic will surely continue, but the real question is: to what end? The fact remains that most Republican senators and even some Democratic senators oppose universal background checks, and negotiations between Democratic and Republican senators have yet to yield any breakthroughs. Meanwhile, it cannot be forgotten that even if the Senate passes such a bill, it still must pass the Republican controlled and pro-gun rights House of Representatives, which is in and of itself doubtful. Considering all of this, the reality is that gun control advocates are certainly not winning the Federal battle, and might even be losing it.
In addition, while three states have recently passed gun control legislation, many others have passed or are proposing legislation which relaxes restrictions on gun control and increases the protection of gun owners’ rights. In an effort to provide a more global picture of the gun control battle at the state level, we have summarized some of the pro-gun legislation around the country.
Ohio eliminated a previous requirement that concealed carry permit holders obtain a competency recertification before renewing their concealed carry permits. Ohio also relaxed the definition of “loaded firearm” in the context of motor vehicles. Under former law, possessing a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle included having a loaded magazine and a firearm in the same motor vehicle even if the magazine was not inserted in the firearm. Under the new definition, however, a firearm is not loaded unless the loaded magazine is actually inserted into the firearm. Ohio also has proposed legislation that would make it a felony for any federal, international, state or local official to attempt to enforce Federal gun control legislation. Although the legislation is being questioned as potentially unconstitutional, it reflects a grossly divergent position on gun control whether it passes or not.
Like Ohio, Alaska has also passed legislation increasing the rights of its gun owners. Most notably, Alaska passed a bill similar to the one currently proposed in Ohio, which actually exempts Alaska gun and ammunition owners from Federal regulations. Although the Federal government contends that such a law is trumped by Federal laws and the Constitution, the law remains on the books.
Michigan has also had a number of proposed and passed pieces of gun legislation, and while the Governor vetoed a bill that would have permitted concealed carry of firearms in schools, daycare facilities and churches, a bill which eliminated state background checks for sales by federally licensed firearms dealers was passed. The state also enacted legislation which makes issued permits to purchase firearms valid for 30 days as opposed to 10 days.
In South Dakota, new legislation permits school employees to carry firearms. In Wyoming, judges are now permitted to carry firearms in the courtroom. Meanwhile, in Maine, legislation that would seal identifying information from concealed carry permits is currently pending, and Mississippi has already passed similar legislation. In Arkansas, Governor Beebe recently signed into law legislation protecting firearms dealers from sting operations. Governor Beebe also enacted legislation which prospectively removes the governor’s authority to control firearms and ammunition sales during a state of emergency. Idaho has also reduced government regulatory authority with respect to firearms by passing a bill that eliminates municipalities’ ability to regulate the carrying of concealed firearms. Numerous other states have also enacted new laws enhancing gun owner rights while other states have proposed such laws.
In sum, only seven laws which are perceived as strengthening gun restrictions have passed this year, while 17 laws which relax restrictions have been enacted. So the question remains, who’s really winning the gun control debate?
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