With all of the focus on the election that’s just passed, it’s easy to lose sight of the important battles that lie ahead for gun owners in state legislatures across the country. Here’s a preview of some of the significant legislation gun owners should look forward to supporting in 2013, along with some of the worst legislation that we’ll need your help to fight in the coming year.
With a record 41 Right-to-Carry states, and 49 states offering some avenue for armed self-defense outside the home, there are plenty of opportunities to expand respect for this vital right. One important goal is to have Alabama join the ranks of the current 38 “shall issue” Right-to-Carry states. Traditionally, Alabama has been one of the states that fairly administered a “may issue” permit system. But still, no one’s rights should be subject to the unaccountable discretion of a public official. The chilling effects of such discretion were apparent in Iowa in 2011. When Iowa changed from a reasonable “may-issue” permit system to a “shall-issue” process like the one in most other states, the state experienced a 170 percent increase in Right-to-Carry permit applications, with 94,516 permits processed from January to November of that year. We’ll also continue our work advancing Right-to-Carry in Illinois, so that President Obama’s home state can move forward to join all the other states in having some kind of lawful handgun carry system on the books.
Another area for improvement is expanding the areas in which Right-to-Carry permit holders are allowed to carry. In states like Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and West Virginia, this means removing restrictions on the right to carry in state parks and in most public buildings. In recent years several states have shown that permit holders can be trusted to carry firearms responsibly in restaurants that serve alcohol, a trend we’ll be looking to continue in New Mexico, North Carolina and South Carolina.
With a White House hostile to national Right-to-Carry reciprocity legislation, gun owners will need to work toward improving permit recognition on the state level. States often have onerous requirements for recognizing one another’s permits. We will be working to improve recognition practices in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and West Virginia.
Other Right-to-Carry restrictions put law-abiding permit holders at risk of prosecution for inadvertently exposing their sidearms. In Mississippi and Texas we will seek to pass laws allowing for the open carry of firearms, a right enjoyed by millions in other states. Most recently, open carry was adopted in Oklahoma. After the first month under the law, The Oklahoman reported that the new liberty “result[ed] in few enforcement issues.”
With the addition of several Right-to-Carry states in the past several years, more people than ever are exercising their right to self-defense. But most people are most vulnerable on their daily commutes to work and their right to carry for self-defense isn’t much use unless their employers allow employees to keep their firearms safely locked in vehicles at the jobsite. A law-abiding gun owner should never be forced to choose between saving her life and keeping her job. That’s why we’ve pushed legislation in several states to protect workers’ rights to store firearms in cars parked on their employers’ premises. Similarly, we’ve worked to outlaw discrimination against gun owners in the hiring and firing process.
Unfortunately, some lawmakers who we can usually count on as allies, when under pressure from business interests, claim such legislation subverts property rights. But every state has numerous regulations that are meant to ensure the safety of workers, regulating everything from bathroom design to food and fire safety. Ensuring employees have a right to store firearms in their vehicles while at work enhances employee safety without putting any burden on the employer. And workplace discrimination laws already bar employers from discriminating on the basis of disability, gender, race and other issues.
In Tennessee, 2012 saw a contentious battle over the nra-backed Safe Commute Act and Firearm Discrimination Prevention Act, when business interests, including Bridgestone, FedEx and Volkswagen, lined up in opposition. This resulted in the legislation stalling after it had received overwhelming support in committee. (In a primary election soon after, one of the lawmakers leading the corporate opposition was defeated, with strong nra support.) We encountered a similar problem in Alabama, where the Business Council of Alabama rallied to prevent a worker’s rights bill. We plan to push for workers’ rights legislation during the 2013 sessions in these two states as well as in Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Registration and Background Checks
Despite the implementation of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin have retained their own state-run background checks. Legislation will be introduced to eliminate these systems, which are redundant with the federal background check and burden gun owners with additional paperwork and fees.
Other planned reforms include eliminating Michigan’s requirement of a license to purchase a pistol. Today, purchasers must apply to their local law enforcement agency for any handgun they intend to buy, and the license is valid for only 10 days. (As this issue went to press, the Michigan Senate had passed a more limited reform that would limit this requirement to non-dealer transfers, allow buyers to apply at a law enforcement agency and make permits valid for 30 days, but we remain committed to a full repeal of this license and state handgun registration.) In Pennsylvania, we intend to continue our work toward eliminating of the state’s record of sale requirement for handguns, which amounts to handgun registration.
Following the gun confiscations perpetrated on the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the nra has worked to block state governments from confiscating guns during declared states of emergency. Many of the laws have also barred state and local authorities from halting the sale of firearms and ammunition during such events.
Without these laws, citizens could be rendered defenseless when they need their firearms most. This year, we hope to pass these important laws in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina and West Virginia.
In 2012, the New York State Assembly launched an assault on gun owners, and risked losing manufacturing jobs, when gun-ban activists made several attempts to pass a microstamping law, at one point even trying to slip it into the assembly’s budget. The proposed measure would have outlawed the sale of newly manufactured semi-automatic handguns that were not “manufactured to produce a unique alpha-numeric or geometric code on at least two locations on each expended cartridge case,” starting Jan. 1, 2014. Thankfully, with the hard work of our allies in the State Senate the bills stalled.
Gun control proponents tried to sell microstamping as a necessity following the 2012 dismantling of the state’s Combined Ballistics Identification System, which despite wasting millions of taxpayer dollars, never solved a crime. Rights opponents will likely be back touting microstamping on similar grounds this year, failing to acknowledge the prohibitive cost it will place on handgun ownership or the ease with which the unproven technology can be defeated. The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Jose R. Peralta, d-Queens, seemed undiscouraged by his 2012 setback, proudly telling the media of his support for rationing ammunition and requiring a background check for ammunition sales.
California has been hostile to gun owners over the last several decades and unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely to change in 2013. In 2012, following media hype about how California gun owners were configuring their semi-automatic rifles to comply with the state’s ever-expanding gun ban, State Sen. Leland Yee, d-San Francisco, authored legislation that would have defined a detachable magazine under California law as “any ammunition feeding device that can be removed from the firearm without disassembly of the firearm action.” The legislation would have instantly outlawed hundreds of thousands of firearms, and provided no means for owners to register these newly defined “assault weapons.” After the bill stalled in committee in August, Yee released a statement noting, “Despite the gun lobby’s efforts to derail common sense legislation, I will not give up this fight.”
Among other challenges, Illinois gun owners are likely to face another attempt by upstate lawmakers to ban semi-automatics. Unable to pass a semi-auto ban outright, in August, Gov. Pat Quinn, d, vetoed a popular bill that would have legalized mail-order and online ammunition sales in the state, and tried to use his amendatory veto power to rewrite the entire bill into a gun ban. The rewritten legislation went far beyond the expired federal “assault weapons” ban and included restrictions on rifles with features such as hand guards and thumbhole stocks. Even the ubiquitous Ruger 10/22 would have been an “assault weapon” under the legislation, which also included a complete ban on .50-cal. rifles. After the legislature rejected the amendment in late November, Quinn remained undeterred, with an aide saying the governor will continue to “vigorously pursue” the ban.
The Coming Year
This preview is nowhere near exhaustive, but will give gun owners an insight into some of what your nra will be working on in the states in 2013. With these important issues on our legislative agenda, we’ll need gun owners to stay more informed than ever to advance our rights in state legislatures. To stay up to date, visit www.nraila.org to sign up for our email alerts, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. With the support of politically active gun owners, we plan to make 2013 a successful year for Second Amendment rights—regardless of who’s occupying the White House.