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Gun Rights On The March

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Even as our nation seems to be at a political impasse on so many issues, gun rights are moving forward in the states with bipartisan support.

by Chris W. Cox, NRA-ILA Executive Director

Even as our nation seems to be at a political impasse on so many issues, gun rights are moving forward in the states with bipartisan support.

Mark Twain may or may not have said that, "No man`s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session." If he didn`t say it, he should have, because that old saying is usually true--in an average year.

Fortunately for gun owners, 2011 has been anything but average. In fact, we are winning almost every legislative battle we are fighting. There are two big reasons why.

First, gun owners have worked hard to elect strong pro-gun majorities in most states. Winning in November always makes winning in the spring much easier. Secondly, even with those newly elected majorities, gun owners kept the pressure up and worked to remind their officials why they were elected in the first place. And in some very big ways, that pressure has worked.

And Then There Was One

On July 8, 2011, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and I were in Madison, Wis., to witness Gov. Scott Walker (R) sign the Personal Protection Act into law. That new law provides the people of Wisconsin with one of the nation`s strongest shall-issue Right-to-Carry permit systems.

This is a huge victory for Wisconsin gun owners who have been fighting for this freedom for more than a decade. The 2010 election swept many pro-gun legislators into office and, most importantly, elected solidly pro-gun Gov. Walker. Even in the months following some of the biggest political drama and conflict in the nation, the pro-gun majorities took action to make the new carry law a reality.

And they did it right. The new law includes protection for the privacy of permit holders, allowing only law enforcement officials to gain access to the list of permit holders for appropriate reasons. It also provides for recognition of permits issued by a majority of other states.

Gov. Scott Walker signs Wisconsin`s Right-to-Carry bill into law as supporters look on, including bill sponsor Sen. Pam Galloway (l., in black suit); crime survivor and Right-to-Carry advocate Theresa Sweet (center, in flowered dress) with her children; NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox (r.)

Thanks to Gov. Walker and the bill`s supporters in the state legislature, Wisconsin went from being one of only two states that completely prohibited carry outside the home for personal protection, to having one of the best Right-to-Carry laws in the country.

This victory was made possible by the hard work of thousands of Wisconsin Second Amendment activists, who labored tirelessly for years to build support for Right to Carry and to elect the pro-gun leadership needed to make it happen.

Expanding the Right to Self-Defense

The fight to win passage of pro-gun bills in Pennsylvania was difficult over the past few years under the reign of anti-gun Gov. Ed Rendell (D). The election of NRA Political Victory Fund-endorsed Gov. Tom Corbett (R) last November is already making a difference.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (center) signed Castle Doctrine legislation that protects the fundamental right to self-defense inside and outside the home. Sen. Rich Alloway l.) sponsored S.B. 273 and Rep. Scott Perry (r.) sponsored H.B. 40-Act No. 10. NRA-ILA State Liaison John Hohenwarter is standing behind the governor.

This year, the Pennsylvania legislature passed, and Gov. Corbett signed, Castle Doctrine legislation that protects the fundamental right to self-defense, in the home and out. The new law removes the duty to retreat before using force in self-defense and makes a law-abiding person`s use of defensive force legal in any place the person has a legal right to be. This is a major step forward for Pennsylvania gun owners and a good sign for future success elsewhere.

Nevada also passed a Castle Doctrine law, bringing the total number of states with this important legal protection to 29.

No, Doctor, It`s Not Your Business

In Florida this year, gun owners won a major battle with the national medical establishment. It has become more and more common for doctors to question their patients about gun ownership, even quizzing children about their parents` guns. As unnecessary and intrusive as the questions are, the anti-gun lectures that often follow are worse.

The new law in Florida simply tells doctors that gun ownership is not a medical issue, and insists that they avoid such questioning unless it`s necessary for the medical care and safety of a particular patient.

Not surprisingly, the medical establishment--particularly the longtime gun ban supporters at the American Academy of Pediatrics--is fighting the new law in court. The NRA has joined that fight as a "friend of the court," with briefs already filed and an initial decision possible by the time you read this article.

The Right to Hunt and Fish

The Kentucky legislature passed a resolution that will put the question of a right to hunt and fish amendment to the state constitution on the 2012 ballot. Voters in the Bluegrass State will decide if the American hunting tradition will be accorded the highest protection available under state law.

In Kansas, the legislature completed the process to amend the constitution to add protection for the right to hunt and fish. Now, in the Jayhawk State, efforts by anti-hunting animal "rights" groups will have a much higher bar to clear.

Protecting the Shooters of the Future

Virginia took a step that could have a big impact on the next generation of gun owners. The new Virginia law prevents local governments from regulating the discharge of air guns on private property, so long as shooters take reasonable precautions to make sure projectiles do not cross property lines.

This will allow responsible adults to set up safe air gun ranges in their basements or back yards to teach safe gun handling, target skills and basic firearm knowledge. There`s no telling how many future Virginia gun owners will benefit from this new law.

More Where Those Came From
These are just a few of our many victories at the state level this year. In fact, 31 states have passed one or more pro-gun bills. And, while we have real challenges remaining in a number of states, so far only Delaware has passed anti-gun legislation.

Besides the issues I`ve already described, here are some of the other areas where NRA -ILA and gun owners have had victories:

Oklahoma, Wyoming and Arizona strengthened their current Castle Doctrine laws;

Arizona, Delaware, Nebraska and North Dakota reformed their criminal record-keeping laws to improve the information used to conduct background checks. Additionally, Delaware repealed its state instant check, now relying on the federal system to screen purchasers;

Florida and Indiana passed firearms preemption law reforms to stop local governments from passing restrictive firearm ordinances;

Fifteen states passed reforms of their carry laws, making changes that include eliminating restrictions on where law-abiding people can legally carry, streamlining the application process, lowering costs and, in one case, lowering the age requirement to get a permit and eliminating bans on carry in state parks;

Indiana, Maine, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas passed laws to protect the rights of employees to store lawfully owned firearms in their cars while parked on employer-owned property;

 

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (c.) with Rep. Rich Cebra (r.) and Cebra`s son, Ian (l.) are all smiles after Gov. LePage signed into law an act to preserve the rights of Maine`s workers to protect themselves by allowing them to keep firearms in their locked vehicles while parked on employer-owned property.

South Dakota, Nevada, Missouri, Louisiana and Indiana eliminated antiquated laws that authorized long gun purchases only in contiguous states;

Nevada passed a law to protect the privacy rights of carry permit holders. Illinois, which again failed to pass a Right-to-Carry law, did pass a law prohibiting the release of names and personal information from Firearms Owner Identification card lists;

Alabama and Oklahoma passed laws prohibiting the kind of media-driven gun purchase "sting" operations sponsored by anti-gun New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg;

Iowa became the 41st state to offer a dove hunting season; and

Louisiana, Montana, Washington and Kansas made changes to their laws to allow greater use of suppressors, including some for use in hunting.

More Challenges Down the Road

These are, indeed, big achievements. But the remainder of the year will see a number of significant challenges. There are still seven state legislatures in session and many of these are less friendly to gun rights.

Gun owners in California face a number of extreme anti-gun bills, including long-gun registration, an open-carry ban and a new attempt to regulate ammunition and ban mail order sales by reviving a law the courts threw out earlier this year. On the East Coast, New York and Massachusetts are considering "microstamping" requirements while Illinois has a broad semi-auto ban still on the agenda.

The good news is that we have the momentum. The record speaks for itself: The American people are moving away from failed gun control schemes and are embracing the freedoms guaranteed by the Second Amendment. With your help and ongoing support, NRA –ILA will fight to keep that momentum going.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.