Gun Rights Continue Expanding After Mass Shootings

Despite calls for more gun control, advocates of allowing guns in more places, including schools and colleges, are prevailing in state legislative debates. That trend may go on after the Florida school shooting.

The Florida school shooting has prompted calls for stricter gun laws, but such measures face a tough road as a wave of states have moved to expand gun owners’ rights, the Wall Street Journal reports. In the past six years, after deadly shootings at a Las Vegas concert, an Orlando nightclub and a Connecticut elementary school, efforts in Congress to tighten gun regulations have failed. Legislation in states has led largely to wins for supporters of broader gun rights. In a recent push, 12 states—including West Virginia, Kansas and Missouri—now have laws allowing residents to carry concealed handguns without getting a permit from authorities. Permitless-carry laws are pending in at least 19 states, says the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. North Dakota, Georgia and a growing number of other states have recently passed laws giving gun owners the right to carry firearms to places such as public parks, concerts, bars and churches.

At least 22 states have pending bills to allow guns in schools and colleges. In Texas and other states, licensed gun owners can bring concealed handguns onto public university campuses. Oklahoma passed a law in 2015 allowing trained teachers and staff at K-12 schools to carry handguns in school. A new Iowa law lets children under 14 possess firearms with adult supervision and reduces restrictions on carrying guns into courthouses and city halls. David Kopel, a University of Denver law professor and gun-rights advocate, expects the Florida shooting to boost state bills that seek to bring more guns onto school grounds. Gun-control advocates say allowing guns in more public spaces endangers public safety by heightening the risk of gun violence from unintentional shootings and from conflict escalation. They say armed civilians often shoot inaccurately in a crisis situation.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Gun Control Advocates Cite Progress in Connecticut

States with the strictest gun-control laws have the lowest rate of gun deaths. Those who favor more gun control says Connecticut illustrates one way to go about it after a school shooting.

After the 2012 Newtown school shootings, Connecticut legislators set out to draft some of the nation’s toughest gun measures. They significantly expanded an existing ban on the sale of assault weapons, prohibiting the sale of magazines with more than 10 rounds and requiring the registration of existing assault rifles and higher-capacity magazines. The state also required background checks for all firearms sales and created a registry of weapons offenders, including those accused of illegally possessing a firearm, the New York Times reports. After the Florida school shooting, gun-control advocates, Democratic politicians and others are pointing to the success of states like Connecticut in addressing the spiraling toll of gun violence.

The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence says that, with few exceptions, states with the strictest gun-control measures, including California, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, have the lowest rates of gun deaths, while those with the most lax laws like Alabama, Alaska and Louisiana, have the highest. After Connecticut passed its package of gun laws, gun-related deaths started to drop. The number of deaths resulting from firearms fell to 164 in 2016, from 226 in 2012. There are limits to state and local gun laws. Cities like Chicago and Baltimore, with rigorous gun laws, also have two of the nation’s highest murder rates. The black market for illegal guns has thrived in those cities, with gang members and criminals turning to the streets to get firearms. Still, state officials say Connecticut has experienced the fastest drop in violent crime of any state over the last four years. Gun-control advocates say the suspect in Florida, Nikolas Cruz, could not have bought the AR-15-style rifle used in the attack, or the high-capacity magazines, in Connecticut.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Why The AR-15 Rifle Shows Up in Mass Shootings

The National Rifle Association calls it “the most popular rifle in America.” It is used by mass shooters because of a copy-cat mentality. “Thank God they don’t know any better because if they did they would use much more effective weapons,” one expert says.

AR-15-style rifles  have increasingly appeared in mass shootings, including the deadliest high school shooting in the modern history at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl., Wednesday, as well as a Las Vegas concert, an Orlando night club, a Newtown, Ct., elementary school, and a Texas church, reports USA Today. The AR-15 used in the Florida shooting was legally bought by suspect Nicolas Cruz, attorney Jim Lewis told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The National Rifle Association has called the AR-15 the “most popular rifle in America,” and estimates Americans own more than 8 million of them. The NRA said “the AR-15 has soared in popularity” because it’s “customizable, adaptable, reliable and accurate.” It is versatile and can be used for “sport shooting, hunting and self-defense situations,” the NRA said, adding the ability to “personalize” so many of the rifle’s components “is one of the things that makes it so unique.”

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said the AR-15, a civilian model of the military’s M-16, also cited the weapon’s versatility. “They’re accurate and they can basically shoot as quickly as you can pull the trigger,” said the campaign. Dean Hazen of The Gun Experts in Mahomet, Il., and a master firearms instructor, said mass shooters  turn to the AR-15 because of a copy-cat mentality more than any feature of the rifle. “It’s really just a perception thing,” he said. “There are rifles that are more powerful and more dangerous than that, but they’re not being used.” Hazen said the AR-15 has “gotten a bad rap.” He believes mass shooters generally don’t know much about guns and choose the AR-15 because of it was used in other mass shootings. “Thank God they don’t know any better because if they did they would use much more effective weapons,” he said.

from https://thecrimereport.org

A Murder-Suicide Happens Daily In the U.S.

Through the first six weeks of 2018, at least 171 people died in 76 instances in which someone was shot and killed by an individual they knew—who then killed himself or herself. The attackers ranged in age from 17 to 86.

On Saturday, a 45-year-old man fatally shot his parents at their home in Kentucky and drove to an apartment, where he shot and killed his girlfriend and her mother before turning the gun on himself. Gunman Joseph Nickell had a history that included domestic violence and substance abuse charges. The grisly murder spree still came as a shock to some who knew the family. Murder-suicide by gun occurs, on average, every day in the U.S., The Trace reports. Through the first six weeks of 2018, finds an analysis of Gun Violence Archive data, at least 171 people died in 76 instances in which someone shot and killed someone they knew and then killed themselves. The attackers ranged in age from 17 to 86. In all but six cases, the shooter was male, and the vast majority of cases involved current or former romantic partners.

Sonia Salari, a gerontologist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, has spent the past decade studying murder-suicide among intimate partners. The result “interferes with people’s ability to have any justice, because there’s no trial,” she said. Salari and her team researched 731 murder-suicides between 1999 and 2005 that resulted in 1,633 deaths. They found that roughly 90 percent of the deaths were from guns. “In our dataset, we found 70 or so cases where we knew there was a protective order, and there was another handful where the woman tried for a protective order but was denied,” Salari said. “So we looked at those cases and said, ‘how did these people die?’ It was by gunfire.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

In Gun ‘Trump Slump,’ Remington Files for Bankruptcy

Remington’s chapter 11 bankruptcy filing to restructure the company illustrates the level of distress in the industry as firearms sales decline during the Trump presidency.

For 200 years, Remington has been one of the most famous names in guns, supplying arms to soldiers in the civil war, both world wars and to generations of gun enthusiasts. Now it has met its match: the gun-friendly presidency of Donald Trump, The Guardian reports. After a golden era of sales under President Obama, U.S. gun manufacturers are in trouble. Sales have tumbled, leaving the companies with too much stock on their hands and falling revenues. The crunch claimed its biggest victim this week when Remington filed for bankruptcy. Remington is using a chapter 11 bankruptcy to offload $700 million of its $950 million in debt, and to restructure the company. But it does underscore the level of distress in the industry.

In December, American Outdoor Brands, owner of Smith & Wesson, reported that its profits had fallen 90 percent year over year, from $32 million to just $3.2 million. Sales fell 36 percent. Last October, Sturm Ruger, the largest U.S. firearm manufacturer, said quarterly revenues had fallen 35 percent. “They call it the Trump slump,” said Robert Spitzer of the State University of New York at Cortland, the author of five books on guns. “Gun sales have become politicized to a great degree,” he said. “Gun purchases recently have been made not just because someone wants a new product but to make a statement; not just because of fears that there might be tighter regulation but also to make a statement against Obama.” With Trump in the White House, Spitzer said, gun sales sharply defaulted to their long-term trend of declining ownership rates. The U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world with 88 guns for every 100 people. Just 3 percent of the population owns an average of 17 guns each, with an estimated 7.7 million super-owners in possession of 140 guns apiece.

from https://thecrimereport.org

States, Cities Ban Bump Stocks; Legal Fight Expected

Two states and two cities have banned bump stocks, and more than a dozen other states have proposals pending. An expert wonders how the ban will be enforced among people who already possess the devices.

After the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history in Las Vegas, there was a fevered pitch to ban bump stocks, the device that allowed the shooter’s semi-automatic rifles to mimic the rapid fire of machine guns. With that push stalled at the federal level, a handful of states and some cities are moving ahead with bans of their own, the Associated Press reports. Massachusetts and New Jersey — two states led by Republican governors — as well as the cities of Denver and Columbia, S.C., have enacted laws prohibiting the sale and possession of the devices, which were attached to a half-dozen of the long guns found in the hotel room of the shooter who killed 58 people and injured hundreds more attending an outdoor concert. More than a dozen other states are also considering bans on bump stocks.

Gun-control advocates say inaction in Washington is forcing states to take the lead. Gun-rights advocates call it a knee-jerk reaction that will do little to stop bad guys from killing, and vow a legal challenge. The devices were intended to help people with disabilities and were little known until the Las Vegas shooting. They fit over the stock and pistol grip of a semi-automatic rifle and allow the weapon to fire rapidly, 400 to 800 rounds per minute, mimicking a fully automatic firearm. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives approved the devices in 2010, ruling they did not amount to machine guns. Joyce Malcolm, a professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia School of Law, said the bans likely would withstand a legal challenge, but she wonders about more practical matters: How might they be enforced? “I don’t see a real constitutional issue. I just wonder about actually getting these devices out of circulation for people who already have them,” she said.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Florida Police Seek ‘Stand Your Ground’ Protection

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law was meant to make sure that average residents could defend themselves without fear of arrest or trial. Police officers accused of using excessive force are trying to claim the law’s protection.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law was meant to make sure that average residents could defend themselves without fear of arrest or trial. Police officers accused of using excessive force are trying to claim the law’s protection, the New York Times reports. They have tried to use the law to avoid trial in cases in which a 63-year-old man was stomped and a man in a wheelchair was beaten. In some instances, judges have granted their request. “The law says it applies to ‘any person,’” said Eric Schwartzreich, a lawyer representing a sheriff’s deputy who made a successful Stand Your Ground claim in the killing of a computer engineer. “Law enforcement is any person. Why would there be a law that applies to one person in the criminal justice system and not another?”

The law was opposed by prosecutors when it was passed in 2005. It eliminates a person’s duty to retreat from a dangerous situation and frees them to use deadly force “if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary” to prevent harm or death. It shields people from both criminal trials and civil lawsuits. Stand Your Ground became widely known in 2012, when Sanford, Fl., police cited it when they declined to arrest the killer of an unarmed black teen, Trayvon Martin. Critics say the law makes it too easy to claim self-defense when violence could have been avoided, and that white people’s fears are more likely to be deemed “reasonable” than black people’s. Nearly two dozen states have such laws, but experts believe Florida is the only place where police officers have used  it. Last week, lawyers said Nouman Raja, a former Palm Beach Gardens officer, intended to seek Stand Your Ground protection in the 2015 killing of Corey Jones, a 31-year-old musician and housing inspector.

from https://thecrimereport.org

KY School Killer Got Gun From Mother’s Closet

A 2004 report by the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Education found that over two-thirds of students who used guns in violent acts at school got those guns from their own home or that of a relative. That’s why many states have some sort of child access prevention law to encourage the safe storage of firearms and make adults liable if children get access to guns.

The boy who shot two Kentucky high school students to death and injured 18 this week obtained his gun from his mother’s closet, reports Ohio Valley ReSource. Kentucky State Police have not confirmed the report from another parent at the school, but it fits a strong pattern. A 2004 report by the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Education found that over two-thirds of students who used guns in violent acts at school got those guns from their own home or that of a relative. That’s why many states have some sort of child access prevention law to encourage the safe storage of firearms and make adults liable if children get access to guns. Under Kentucky law there is no requirement for secure storage of weapons, and adults are liable only if they “recklessly provide a handgun” to a minor they think might use it illegally.

“We know that those laws work,” says Hannah Shearer said of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which formed after Arizona U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords was shot in 2011. “There is research that states that have child access prevention laws have successfully reduced unintentional gun injuries among children and also child suicides,” Shearer said. “We know that in states with those laws fewer kids are getting their hands on their parents’ guns and harming themselves with guns.” Many of the laws have been in effect long enough to give researchers time to assess their effectiveness. A 2000 study, for example, found that Florida’s law, which carries some of the stiffest penalties for not securing a firearm in the presence of children, has been especially effective, cutting accidental child deaths from guns in half. (NPR reports on why so many people who have been ordered to surrender weapons still possess them.)

from https://thecrimereport.org

Bump Stock Manufacturer Missing from Gun Trade Show

The gun industry is holding its biggest annual trade show near where a gunman slaughtered 58 concertgoers outside his high-rise Las Vegas hotel room in October. Many of his guns were fitted with bump stocks that enabled them to mimic fully automatic fire. Slide Fire, the leading manufacturer of bump stocks, isn’t there.

The gun industry is holding its biggest annual trade show a few miles from where a gunman slaughtered 58 concertgoers outside his high-rise Las Vegas hotel room in October using a display case worth of weapons, many of them fitted with bump stocks that enabled them to mimic fully automatic fire, the Associated Press reports. What will be among the thousands of products crammed into the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s SHOT Show convention will be a bit of a mystery, shielded from the public and the general-interest media. Slide Fire, the leading manufacturer of bump stocks, a once-obscure product that attracted intense attention after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, won’t be among the exhibitors.

The Texas-based company hasn’t said why it’s not on the roster of more than 1,700 exhibitors, although it was last year. The company also isn’t on the list of those attending this year’s National Rifle Association annual meeting or other prominent gun trade shows. “From purely from a public relations standpoint, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if bump stocks just sort of disappeared this year,” said political scientist Robert Spitzer of the State University of New York at Cortland. “That’s a PR no-brainer.” Still, the convention floor is likely to have plenty of other devices that gun-control advocates have taken aim at in recent years: accessories that make it easier to carry a firearm, shoot it or reduce the noise it makes. On the list of products they oppose are “trigger cranks,” which, like bump stocks, make it easier to fire a long gun rapidly, and “assault pistols,” which look remarkably like short-barreled AR- and AK-style firearms but skirt federal restrictions because they aren’t designed to be shot from the shoulder.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Gun Control Advocates Notch Victories in States

Republicans in some states signaled they would be willing to break with the National Rifle Association to support new rules. Advocates cited Massachusetts and New Jersey, the first two states to ban bump stocks, the rifle modifications used by a gunman to murder dozens at a concert in Las Vegas last year.

Advocates of stricter restrictions on gun ownership believe they can notch new wins in state legislatures this year, after Republicans in some states signaled they would be willing to break with the National Rifle Association to support new rules, The Hill reports. Advocates cited Massachusetts and New Jersey, the first two states to ban bump stocks, the rifle modifications used by a gunman to murder dozens at a concert in Las Vegas last year. Both bills were passed by Democratic legislatures and signed by Republican governors. A bump stock ban won approval from a legislative committee in Virginia this week. Similar bills have been introduced in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Indiana and Washington. “States are really taking the lead on banning these weapons in the face of Congressional inaction,” said Robin Lloyd of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Legislators in several states have advanced measures that would prohibit those who pose a risk to themselves or others from possessing a firearm. One version would allow family members or law enforcement to petition for “extreme” risk protection orders, temporarily barring someone who poses a threat. Those measures passed in California, Washington and Oregon. Massachusetts lawmakers heard testimony on an extreme risk protection order bill, and New York legislators rolled out their version on Wednesday. New Jersey and Delaware are likely to take action this year. Another version of the prohibitions would ban those convicted of domestic abuse from possessing firearms. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have passed laws keeping guns away from domestic abusers. Gun rights advocates are pushing for legislation that would end requirements for permits to carry firearms in public. The measures, dubbed constitutional carry, have passed in 13 states so far.

from https://thecrimereport.org