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Gun Access/Gun Violence


Assault Weapon Bans

Washington state became the latest state to ban the sale of assault weapons (April 25), the tenth US state to do so. Washington joins California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York with similar bans (Giffords Law Center) Three other states have put safety requirements and regulations on assault weapons––Virginia, Minnesota, and Washington.

The Washington state law bans the sale, transfer, distribution, manufacture and importation of 62 gun models/model types, such as AK-47s and AR-15s. The law also bans specific features, such as semi-automatic rifles shorter than 30 inches, guns with detachable magazines or fixed magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds, and those with detachable magazines that are equipped with features such as flash suppressors, folding stocks and shrouded barrels. Law violation penalties generally apply to new sales, not to firearms people already own. The law also exempts persons who inherited banned weapons.

Last year (2022) in the last Congress, the House passed (July 29) an assault weapons ban proposal by a vote of  217-213, with 2 Republicans joining 215 Democrats to approve the bill. 5 Democrats joined 208 Republicans against the bill. One Republican did not vote. The Senate did not vote on any ban given the lack of adequate support.

President Biden has repeatedly called on the Congress to pass a Federal ban, but even the consideration of a ban is unlikely in the current Congress.

(posted: 4-26-23)


New Michigan Laws

Michigan enacted new gun laws (April 13) requiring universal background checks for all gun sales and new requirements on the safe storage of firearms.

Anyone purchasing any gun in Michigan will have to undergo a background check if they do not already have a gun license. The requirement did not previously apply to purchasers of long-guns (e.g., assault rifles) and shotguns.

With respect to safe storage, Michigan gun owners living with minors will be required to store firearms in a locked box or container, or lock the firearm with a locking device rendering it inoperable by any individual other than the owner or an authorized user. Gun owners entering other premises with a firearm must take similar actions (e.g., some else's home or their own car). 

Violators face misdemeanor charges punishable by up to 93 days in prison, a fine of up to $500 or both, unless a violations occur and actual weapons discharges and injuries occur, which then will turn misdemeanor violations into felony violations. Maximum felony prison terms range from 5 to 15 years depending on the severity of injuries or death.

Michigan is also in the process of completing consideration of a red flag law for the state.

(posted: 4-14-23)


Florida Carry Law

Florida enacted a law (April 3) permitting persons to carry a concealed weapon without a specific license for this purpose as long as they meet the state's existing gun ownership requirements, which previously required a mandatory background check and a firearms training course before receiving a license. 

The new law does not change so-called "open carry" rules for Florida, however, where a weapon is kept in plain sight or partially concealed. Open carry remains prohibited.

(posted: 4-3-23)


Guns & Restraining Orders

The Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court (March 20) an Appeals Court decision in February that struck down Federal law (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8)) preventing persons with domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms.

The Appeals Court decision was based mostly on a separate Supreme Court decision in 2022 on a case unrelated to domestic violence which held that firearm regulations must be consistent with the US "historical tradition" (e.g., second amendment rights), and that lower courts could no longer consider societal benefits of gun policy.

Justice argues that the Appeals Court decision is "profoundly mistaken;" that, governments have long disarmed individuals who pose a threat to the safety of others, and [Federal law] falls comfortably within that tradition. The Fifth Circuit’s contrary decision misapplies this Court’s precedents, conflicts with the decisions of other courts of appeals, and threatens grave harms for victims of domestic violence."

Justice is hoping for a ruling before the current Supreme Court session ends and decisions are issued.

(posted: 3-31-23)


Executive Order Guns

The Biden Administration issued (March 14) an Executive Order (EO) covering a variety of gun policy matters, such as background checks on gun sales, gun shipping, detection evasion, and gun victim assistance.

The most significant actions concern gun sales. Specifically, the EO directs the Department of Justice:

  • To clarify, to the extent possible without changes in law, the gun sellers that fall into the statutory definition of being engaged in the business of selling firearms, in order to improve the clarity of who is required to conduct background checks of gun purchasers.

  • To publicly release ATF records from the inspection of firearms dealers cited for violation of federal firearm laws, in order to “empower the public and policymakers to better understand the problem,” so as to guide future gun law improvements that hold problem gun dealers accountable.

Other notable elements of the EO include a provision directing Federal agencies to encourage effective use of extreme risk protection orders and expand existing Federal campaigns and other efforts to promote safe storage of firearms.

The EO also requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue a public report analyzing how gun manufacturers market firearms to minors and all civilians, including through the use of military imagery.

(posted: 3-14-23)


Supreme Court & NY Carry Laws

The Supreme Court decided (January 11) that certain New York State handgun carry laws can remain in effect as challenges are considered in the courts.

Last summer, the Supreme Court issued an opinion (June 23) that generally opposes State laws restricting the ability of persons to carry handguns outside of a home. The issue before the Court was a long-time New York State law requiring a licensed gun owner to seek approval and have “proper cause” to carry a firearm.

Later last year, a Federal Appeals Court (2nd Circuit) ordered a pause in a lower District Court ruling in a separate case that would have blocked parts of New York law banning concealed carry in certain locations, in part because of the Supreme Court’s summer ruling. The Supreme Court has now decided that the pause can remain in effect (meaning the New York law can continue to be enforced) while the case is being considered in the courts.

Supporters of New York carry laws are concerned with the future proliferation of persons carrying weapons in the streets and to public places where large numbers of persons are gathered who could face risk from gunfire exchanges. Opponents believe that the Constitution fundamentally permits the ability of persons to carry guns for self defense no matter where they are.

(updated: 1-11-23)


Bump Stock Ban at Risk

A Federal Appeals Court (5th Circuit) issued a decision on a case (December 6) that could eventually lead to the removal of a federal rule that effectively bans so-called “bump stock” devices for semi-automatic weapons.

The Justice Department rule, that took effect in 2019, clarifies that a weapon that is modified by a bump stock to allow automatic fire qualifies as a machine gun. Machine guns are strictly regulated, and persons prosecuted, for illegal possession and use of such weapons.

Bump stocks are devices that use a rifle’s recoil to repeatedly pull the trigger, enabling a semi-automatic weapon to fire nearly as fast as a traditional automatic weapon. The gun’s trigger bucks against a shooter’s finger as the gun’s recoil causes it to jerk back and forth. This causes the gun to repeatedly fire.

The Appeals Court held that based on a plain reading of statute providing authority to regulate machine guns, as well as how a semi-automatic firearm works mechanically, that a bump stock is excluded from the technical definition of machine gun set forth in the Gun Control Act and National Firearms Act. The law defines a machine gun as one that fires multiple times with a “single function of the trigger,” but bump stocks help facilitate multiple trigger functions of a semi-automatic weapon to make it act more like a machine gun.

Ultimately, the Appeals Court believes that this matter should be considered by Congress, and changes made to law, if there is a desire to specifically prohibit bump stocks. Some legal analysts believe that the Appeals Court’s interpretation of the law is overly conservative and that while clarification of the law would be helpful it should not be necessary for keeping restrictions in place for now.

The case considered by the Appeals Court will now move back to a District Court, and there is speculation that the matter could end up before the Supreme Court. In the meantime, the Justice Department will have to determine if/how to prosecute bump stock cases while this matter moves through the courts, and whether or not to at least temporarily suspend the 2019 rule.

(posted: 1-11-23)


Guns & Serial Numbers Court Case

A Federal District Court judge ruled (October 12) that a ban on firearms with a serial number altered or removed is unconstitutional, claiming that there is no historical tradition in law for restricting gun possession on the basis of a serial number.

The judge based his decision on a June 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a separate case, where the majority opinion stated that gun regulation had to be justified by demonstrating that it is “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

Federal law prohibits persons from transporting a gun with the serial number removed across state lines, or from possessing such a gun if it has ever been transported across state lines. In general, serial numbers (which are connected to provisions of the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968) are intended to prevent illegal gun sales and make it easier to solve crimes through gun traceability.

It is not clear what the Justice Department will do next in the case, such as taking the case to a higher court. It is possible this case could eventually make it to the Supreme Court.

(updated: 10-19-22)


Ghost Gun Regulation

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced (August 24) that the final rule is now implemented that regulates so-called "ghost guns." Ghost Guns are firearms typically made by an individual from kits or which can be 3-D printed, which lack serial numbers for tracing, and which can evade metal detection. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) issued its final rule April 11.

Privately-made firearms (PMFs) recovered by law enforcement rose from a total of 1,758 in 2016 to 19,344 in 2021. More than 45,200 PMFs were recovered over that period, with nearly 700 tied to a homicide or attempted homicide.

The final rule, with requirements that go into effect in 4 months, includes the following key requirements:

  • Clarifies that retailers must run background checks before selling a kit that contains the parts necessary for someone to make a gun.

  • Modernizes the definition of “frame” or “receiver,” clarifying what must be marked with a serial number – including in easy-to-build firearm kits. Ghost guns (and other guns) had the potential to evade Federal serializing requirements with a “split” receiver (more than one), versus a single receiver upon which previous rules were established.

  • Establishes requirements for federally licensed firearms dealers and gunsmiths to have a serial number added to 3D printed guns or other unserialized firearms they take into inventory.

  • Requires federal firearms licensees, including gun retailers, to retain records for the length of time they are licensed, thereby expanding records retention beyond the prior requirement of 20 years. The 20 year rule makes it difficult for investigators to trace gun ownership of older guns used in crimes.

(updated: 8-24-22)


Bipartisan Gun Safety & Control

In a matter of three days (June 23-25), the Congress approved and the President signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (summary and text).

The Senate vote on the bill included 65 Senators voting for the bill, 33 Senators voting in opposition, and 2 Senators not voting. The House approved the bill (June 24th:) by a vote of 234 Representatives voting for the bill, 193 Representatives voting in opposition, and 3 Representatives not voting. 

More details on the content of the new law and the vote breakdown can be found here. The core elements of the law include:

Gun Ownership/Possession

  • Funding for States to help administer red flag laws, or what the bipartisan group is calling "State crisis intervention orders." That means there will be no overarching Federal red flag law, though the Federal Government will encourage/help administer State laws with funding.

  • Incorporation of the names of convicted domestic violence abusers and individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders within the Federal background check system for those who have, or have had, a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature (i.e., to close the so-called "boyfriend loophole."

  • Clarification of the definition of a Federally-licensed firearms dealer to prevent efforts to evade Federal laws and regulations.

  • Implementation of an under-21 "enhanced review" process that enables an investigative period to review juvenile and mental health records, including checks with state databases and local law enforcement. 

Mental Health

  • Expanded funding for Children and Family Mental Services to expansion the community behavioral health center model; for access to mental health and suicide prevention programs; and for other support services such as crisis and trauma intervention and recovery.

  • Expanded funding for mental health and supportive services in schools to include early identification and intervention programs and school based mental health and wrap-around services.

  • Expanded funding for telehealth activities supporting mental and behavioral health services access for youth and families in crisis.

School Safety

  • Expands funding for school safety programs to include violence prevention and training for school personnel and students.

(updated: 6-25-22)


Connected Policies


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National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)
National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)

This is the current regulation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) guiding firearms background checks through the NICS system established via the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.

Status: this regulation was published in the Federal Register on November 20, 2014.

Ghost Guns - Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)
Ghost Guns - Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)

This is a proposed rule  updating the definition of a "firearm", as well as definition to certain firearm components, so that those definitions more accurately reflect firearm configurations not explicitly captured under the existing definitions. This is intended to help law enforcement to improve the ability to trace ownership of guns, including so-called "Ghost Guns" which are often made from standalone parts or weapon parts kits, or by using 3D printers or personally owned or leased equipment, without any records or a background check.

Status: this proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on May 21, 2021.

Gun Stabilizing Braces - Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)
Gun Stabilizing Braces - Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)

This is a proposed rule that would clarify when a rifle is intended to be fired from the shoulder. Devices marketed as firearm stabilizing braces can turn pistols into short-barreled rifles subject to the National Firearms Act. These braces can make a firearm more stable and accurate while still being concealable.

Status: this proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on June 10, 2021.


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