In the last nine years, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected at least 82 cases that sought to expand the very limited right defined in theunprecedented Second Amendment case, District of Columbia v. Heller. By repeatedly declining to review lower court decisions upholding federal, state, and local gun laws, the Supreme Court has maintained important limitations on the Second Amendment and has reconfirmed that the Amendment is not an obstacle to smart gun laws that keep our communities safe from gun violence.
Since the Court’s decision in the Heller case 2008, lower courts across the country have been inundated with costly and time-consuming challenges to state and local gun laws. However, lower courts have consistently upheld these laws, noting that many of these laws have been successful at protecting people from gun violence and keeping guns out of the hands of criminals while still allowing law-abiding citizens to keep guns in their homes for self defense. Since 2008, there have been over 1,230 Second Amendment cases challenging gun laws nationwide, with an overwhelming majority—93%—of the lower court decisions upholding those laws.
Many of these Second Amendment challenges to gun laws make their way to the Supreme Court. However, the Court has refused to hear these cases,1 leaving lower court decisions upholding the laws intact and keeping strong gun laws on the books. For example, the Supreme Court has refused to hear cases that:
In 2010, the Court decided McDonald v. City of Chicago, which held that the right recognized in Heller extends to state and local governments. That case involved a Chicago law nearly identical to the one struck down in Heller and did not expand the substantive scope of the Second Amendment. The only other Second Amendment case the Supreme Court has weighed in on since 2010 is Caetano v. Massachusetts, involving a Massachusetts law that prohibits private possession of stun guns.In a short, unsigned opinion—see Caetano v. Massachusetts, 136 S. Ct. 1027 (2016) (per curiam)—the Court did not break any new legal ground or rule that stun guns are protected by the Second Amendment. Instead, the Court’s decision in Caetano simply vacated and remanded the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s decision upholding the constitutionality of the state’s stun gun ban, and directed the state court to apply Heller. ⤴︎
With 100,000 Americans shot every year—and 30,000 dying from those wounds—gun violence is undoubtedly a major health crisis in the United States. To outline the leading causes of injury death by age, we highlighted instances of gun violence in this chart to show just how pervasive the issue is—and how urgently we need reforms and smart gun laws to protect communities from tragedy.
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Ranking in the top 10 for injury deaths for all ages except babies under the age of 1, we know guns threaten us at every single stage in our lives. Compiled using data from the Centers for Disease Control, the chart not only reveals the destructive nature of gun violence, but also shows just how instrumental the CDC’s research is in understanding the health issues that plague the United States. We’re proud to stand with California representative Mike Honda, who recently introduced a bill calling for an end to the CDC’s ban on gun violence research, to offer Americans a data-driven approach to ending this epidemic. We desperately need to support efforts toward transparency in determining what threatens our safety—especially when one of those threats is as preventable as gun violence.
We’ve broken down the chart into some key takeaways:
Ranking in the top five causes of death for Americans between the ages of 5 and 44, firearm homicide is an overwhelming threat at almost every age.
Firearm suicide—the third leading cause of death for children ages 10–14—remains in the top four causes of death for all subsequent age groups. With guns, the decision to take one’s own life is almost always irreversible—even if the person making that decision is only in the fourth grade.
Tragically, unintentional firearm deaths rank 10th and ninth for children ages 5–9 and 10–14, respectively. With guns in the home, children or toddlers looking for their toys and playing with their siblings can find deadly weapons instead—and kill themselves or their siblings without knowing the consequences that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Gun locks, safe storage practices and child access prevention laws can help prevent these senseless shootings.
This year, for the first time, firearm deaths are expected to take more lives in the 15–24 age group than motor vehicle accidents. The continual string of tragic school shootings and violence among young adults reminds us on a daily basis just how suddenly a promising life can end and how devastating it is that more and more young people are dying as a result of completely preventable gun violence.
Though we may only hear about shootings in the media when extreme or shocking mass shootings occur, the facts show that gun violence is a lethal threat to American lives each and every day. We need to implement smart gun laws that reverse the trend of horrific gun violence in the United States—not only through common sense solutions such as universal background checks and ammunition regulations, but by supporting government agencies, such as the CDC, designed to ensure our safety by taking on challenges to our public health.
The Law Center’s 22nd Anniversary dinner was a resounding success, bringing our community together, honoring our legacy, and raising much-needed funds to keep our top-notch attorneys fighting for smart gun laws across the country. The event was especially powerful in light of the tragic mass shooting in Charleston the night before, a topic our speakers addressed with reflection, thought-provoking analysis, and renewed commitment to solving the epidemic of gun violence that kills over 30,000 Americans every year.
We know the fight to end gun violence cannot be won alone—which is why we’ve spent the last year partnering with one of the movement’s most powerful, active organizations, Americans for Responsible Solutions. We’re proud to release the latest in our series of Commonsense Solutions toolkits—this installment addresses the urgent need to protect children from firearms.
Too many families have needlessly suffered the devastation of a child lost to an unlocked gun. Almost 1.7 million children under the age of 18 live in homes with loaded, unlocked guns, making them 16 times more likely to be killed in unintentional shootings than in other high-income countries. Commonsense requirements for gun storage and handling can protect the littlest among us from preventable tragedies.
Check out our other Commonsense Solutions toolkits:
There’s good news this week for San Franciscans—and supporters of smart gun laws nationwide. The US Supreme Court announced that it would not review Jackson v. City and County of San Francisco, a Ninth Circuit decision upholding a pair of lifesaving San Francisco ordinances that prohibit deadly hollow-point “cop killer” ammunition and require the safe storage of firearms.
The notion that the Second Amendment is not a barrier to commonsense gun laws is central to the Law Center’s mission. We’ve been working tirelessly with San Francisco lawmakers for almost two decades to make the city safer from gun violence, and the result is smart gun laws like these.
The city’s safe storage ordinance encourages responsible gun ownership practices by requiring that handguns be either stored in a safe or disabled with a trigger lock at all times when not actually on the owner’s person. This was a direct response to the fact that one in three handguns is kept loaded and unlocked, which drastically increases the risk of deadly shootings in the home—especially of children. Safe storage is also a critical component to Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws, supported by prosecutors like Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and New York County’s District Attorney, Cy Vance Jr., whom we’re honoring at our Anniversary Dinner in San Francisco on June 18.
San Francisco also enacted a prohibition on hollow-point bullets, which are designed to expand upon impact, in order to reduce the likelihood that shooting victims will die of their injuries by lowering the lethality of the ammunition sold within the city.
The Supreme Court’s refusal to review the decision upholding these laws marks the 67th time that the Court has denied review in a lawsuit based on an alleged violation of the Second Amendment since the landmark Heller decision in 2008. Since Heller was decided, the lower courts have rejected 93% of all Second Amendment claims and the Supreme Court has demonstrated its unwillingness to take up the issue—further reinforcing the Law Center’s position that smart gun laws are very much compatible with the Second Amendment.
This one-of-a-kind report on federal, state, and local gun laws is an invaluable resource for lawmakers, activists, and others seeking in-depth information on firearms regulation in a single publication. In addition to summarizing existing law and providing background information on gun policy, Regulating Guns in America offers common-sense, actionable legislative recommendations to prevent gun violence and save lives.
For the latest information on firearms regulations in all 50 states and the smart gun laws that can save lives, be sure to bookmark the Laws and Policies section of our website: smartgunlaws.org/gun-policy.
California just got safer, and set some amazing records, too. On Friday, October 11th, California Governor Jerry Brown signed 10 new gun violence prevention bills — a record for the State of California and the largest number of strong gun bills signed into law by any state in the nation this year. We are proud to have worked with legislators and activists in California to support this crucial and groundbreaking new legislation.
In the bills signed into law, Governor Brown and the California Legislature have prioritized measures to promote gun safety and prevent prohibited people from accessing weapons. Here are only a few of the new, cutting-edge policies that will help keep our communities safe:
AB 500 will require gun owners living with people prohibited from possessing a firearms to store their weapons in a secure manner. That bill will also give the Department of Justice an additional 30 days to conduct a background check when needed to ensure that a gun buyer isn’t a convicted felon or otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms.
AB 231 will help prevent tragic accidents involving guns and children by expanding California’s child access prevention law to allow law enforcement to hold a gun owner liable if a weapon is left in a place where a child may gain access to it.
AB 48 will keep gun manufacturers from skirting California’s ban on large capacity ammunition magazines by banning “conversion kits,” which allow someone to make ordinary magazines into magazines capable of holding up to a hundred rounds of ammunition.
And these are only a few of the policies that Governor Brown just signed into law.
Although we are disappointed that the governor vetoed seven strong bills to prevent gun violence, we are extremely pleased with the historic progress otherwise made by the legislature this year. We are proud of the success California has seen implementing smart gun laws and encouraged that it continues to promote effective policies that can make our communities safer. In a year marked with a seemingly endless list of tragic shootings, Governor Brown has heard the voice of gun owners and non-gun owners alike — inaction on preventing gun violence is unacceptable.
On April 29, the nation was saddened by the death of two-year old Caroline Sparks, who was shot and killed by her five-year-old brother Kristian in rural Kentucky. The mother of the two children had left a rifle sitting in a corner of the house and had not known it was loaded. She only left the room for a moment when she heard the gun go off.
Our hearts go out to these victims and their family members. These kinds of shootings are the result of our nation’s insufficient attention to the more generalized problem of access to guns. Over the last few months, our nation’s leaders have begun to address how our background check system could, and should, prevent dangerous criminals and individuals with severe mental illness from accessing guns. They should also address the parallel problem of child access to guns.
Far too many children can obtain firearms without adult supervision. A 2005 study on firearm storage practices found that over 1.69 million children and youth under age 18 are living in homes in the U.S. with loaded and unlocked firearms. The presence of unlocked guns in the home increases the risk of both gun accidents, like those described above, and intentional shootings, like those that can occur when a violent or suicidal teenager has access to a firearm. See Statistics on Youth Violence and Gun Access for further data.
Almost half the states have no law penalizing individuals who provide children unsupervised access to firearms. In addition, as described in our Child Access Prevention policy summary, some states with existing laws only penalize the responsible adult after a child has actually gained access to the firearm and someone has been shot. A stronger approach generally requires gun owners to keep their guns locked whenever they are not in use. Massachusetts is the only state that has adopted this approach so far. Other jurisdictions should consider this approach, which could prevent many of the tragedies listed above, and which has been upheld by the courts.
Massachusetts’ safe storage law is one of many innovative strategies to prevent gun violence that legislators ought to consider. If we don’t do anything, we’ll continue to read about terrible accidents involving kids and guns.
Following three child-related shootings in Washington over a couple of months, media focus turned to public safety policies to reduce access to guns by kids, including child access prevention laws – laws that impose liability on a parent or other adult who negligently leave firearms accessible to children or otherwise allow children access to firearms – and trigger locking devices for firearms. Washington has no child access prevention or locking device laws.
Photos from the Ohio and Washington School Shootings.
The Law Center expresses our deepest condolences to the families affected by Monday’s tragic mass shooting in Chardon, Ohio, where a 17-year-old entered Chardon High School armed with a handgun and fired 10 rounds in the school’s cafeteria, killing three students and wounding two others.
Sadly, the school shooting in Chardon wasn’t the only recent incident of gun violence in one of our nation’s schools. Less than one week before, an 8-year-old girl in Bremerton, Washington was critically wounded in her third grade classroom, when a gun brought to school by one of her classmates, a 9-year-old boy, accidentally discharged while in the boy’s backpack.
The shootings, occurring over two thousand miles apart, might seem very different: one was intentional, the other an accident. But according to emerging news reports, both children acquired their guns in the same way, by taking them from family members’ homes.
All too often, kids get access to guns because adults don’t act responsibly. A 2005 study on firearm storage practices in U.S. homes concluded that over 1.69 million children and youth under age 18 are living in homes with loaded and unlocked firearms.