Since the mass shooting in Connecticut last December, states have passed a bevy of new gun laws. In many cases, they’re making gun ownership a little bit easier.
Like their counterparts in Congress, legislators in several states did seek to tighten restrictions through a menu of popular gun control reforms, such as limiting the size of ammunition clips, expanding criminal background checks to private sales and banning semi-automatic assault weapons. The biggest gun control victories to date have been in Colorado, Connecticut and New York, where legislatures enacted sweeping regulatory packages -- and in Maryland, where a similar bill awaits the governor’s signature.
But in the South, Midwest and more rural corridors of the West, many states actually went in the other direction. Since a shooter entered an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., gunning down 20 children and six adults, several states have broadened the number of places where it’s permissible to carry concealed firearms with a permit, including college campuses, bars and in K-12 schools. At the same time, they've strengthened privacy laws to make gun ownership exempt from public disclosure requests.
Here’s a breakdown of some firearm reforms being celebrated by the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups this spring.
1. Buy Back, Sell Back
On the last day in April, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a law that prohibits local governments from destroying firearms submitted in voluntary buyback events. Instead, law enforcement must sell the guns to licensed vendors. Since the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., last July -- and, really for the past three decades -- cities across the country have held buybacks as a way to reduce the number of guns in a community without ramping up any regulations; although voluntary buybacks do not appear to affect the incidence of gun homicides, public health experts and government officials say they’re useful as a means of engaging the public around the issue of gun violence. Phoenix arranged for three buybacks in April, which local police say may be the last of their kind in the city.
2. Keeps Guns Private
Tennessee enacted a law that keeps confidential the personal information of handgun carry permit holders. In practice, this means that newspapers won’t be able to review and publish the names and addresses of handgun owners, as The Journal News did in two suburban counties north of New York City in January. In light of a similar confidentiality law passed in Arizona last month, the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action noted “these media elites have not increased public safety and have instead simply provided a roadmap for criminals to use for their next burglary and firearm theft.” Arkansas, Maine, Virginia, Montana, Missouri and Kansas also passed confidentiality laws for conceal-carry permit holders this year.
3. Prevent Bloomberg Stings
Arkansas passed eight gun laws lauded by the NRA, including one aimed at discouraging undercover sting operations, such as a gun show investigation in Tucson, Ariz., commissioned by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2011. Investigators hired by Bloomberg demonstrated that private sellers -- who do not have to perform background checks -- were willing to sell guns to people who said they were legally prohibited from buying a gun. The Arkansas law makes it illegal for a person to solicit, persuade, encourage or entice a private vendor or licensed dealer to sell guns or ammunition under unlawful circumstances.
4. God, Guns and Beer
In February Arkansas lifted its prohibition against bringing handguns into churches or places of worship, so long as the person has a concealed carry permit. Religious leaders, however, can still establish a private policy to ban the firearms, if they choose. Arkansas also nixed prohibitions against carrying guns into bars and liquor stores and it’s one of three states so far this year, along with Kansas and Oklahoma, to pass reciprocity laws that recognize conceal-carry gun permits from all other states, according to an analysis by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
5. Arming the Teachers
South Dakota gave local school boards the option to train and arm employees, including volunteers, in the classroom. To take advantage of the new law, communities within a school district would have to approve a so-called “school sentinels” program by popular vote. Kansas enacted a similar provision and Tennessee has a bill awaiting the governor’s signature.
6. Legalized Silencers
In North Dakota and Montana, licensed hunters may now use silencers. The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action said benefits would include “increased accuracy due to reduced recoil and muzzle blast, protection from hearing damage and reduced noise pollution.”
7. Override Federal Regulations
A Kansas gun law package included a nullification provision that says the state can manufacture and sell firearms, ammunition and firearm accessories within the state without a federal license or federal oversight. Federal agents who try to enforce federal regulation on those items would be committing a felony, according to the Kansas law. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says the law is unconstitutional and warned Gov. Sam Brownback that the Department of Justice is willing to take the state to court. Legislatures in Alabama, Oklahoma and Missouri are considering similar bills. “They are not going to stand up in court and are essentially symbolic,” says Laura Cutilletta, a senior staff attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “They are a waste of taxpayer money and, frankly, an insult to gun violence victims and survivors.”
8. Pre-Empt City Regulation of Conceal-Carry Permits
Idaho clarified that municipalities truly do not have the authority to regulate conceal-carry weapons. The city of Moscow, which experienced its own mass shooting in 2007 and a murder-suicide in 2011, considered a ban on concealed firearms in city hall six years ago, but the state's attorney general said the ban would violate state law. Even so, a conflicting statute listed the regulation of concealed weapons as a city power, and this law eliminates that language.
9. Guns After Voluntary Rehab
A Tennessee law reduces the number of years that a person finished with drug or alcohol rehabilitation must wait before becoming eligible for gun ownership. It used to be 10 years, but now the wait is three years, so long as the person voluntarily entered rehab. For those who entered involuntarily, the wait is still 10 years.
10. Packing on a Snowmobile
In March, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a law that allows residents to ride snowmobiles while carrying a firearm, so long as they’re driving on their property or the firearm is a handgun and they have a conceal-carry handgun permit.