PRESS RELEASE: 50-State Analysis Shows Undeniable Correlation between Gun Safety Laws and Reduced Gun Deaths

Giffords Law Center’s Annual Gun Law Scorecard grades and ranks all 50 states on their gun laws

States with the highest gun death rates consistently have weak gun laws. Half of the nation—25 states—receive an F grade

March 1, 2018—Today, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence released the latest edition of its Annual Gun Law Scorecard, which grades and ranks each state on the strength of its gun laws. This comprehensive, 50-state analysis clearly shows how stronger gun laws like background checks help reduce gun death rates and save lives.

“Every day in our country, nearly 100 Americans die from gun violence. While this crisis is impacting families in every community in every state, we know its toll disproportionately hits states with weaker gun laws the hardest,” said Robyn Thomas, executive director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Year after year, our research shows that states that get serious about passing stronger gun violence prevention laws have a much better chance of reducing the number of deaths linked to firearms. This scorecard should be a wake-up call to the half of the nation that has failing grades that they are on notice. The Gun Law Scorecard should inspire elected leaders, activists, and concerned citizens to take action.”

The Annual Gun Law Scorecard makes clear that there is a significant opportunity to address the nation’s gun violence epidemic if more states act. Since 2014, the gun death rate has been rising, with gun deaths jumping 8% from 2014 to 2015 and another 7% from 2015 to 2016. That resulted in the deaths of 38,000 people in 2016—the deadliest year for gun deaths since 1993.

 

Of the 10 states with the lowest gun death rates, eight have some of the strongest gun laws in the country, receiving a B or better. All eight have also  passed private-sale background checks. Those eight states are:

  • Massachusetts

  • Rhode Island

  • New York

  • Hawaii

  • Connecticut

  • New Jersey

  • California

  • Washington

Yet, even with such powerful data showing that states with stronger gun laws have lower death rates, many states have done nothing. The 10 states with the highest gun death rates have some of the weakest gun laws in the nation—with all 10 receiving an F the Gun Law Scorecard. They are, in order of deadliness:

  • Alaska

  • Alabama

  • Louisiana

  • Mississippi

  • Oklahoma

  • Montana

  • Missouri

  • New Mexico

  • Arkansas

  • South Carolina

States continue trend of passing stronger laws 
The scores for some states reflect the continued efforts of Giffords to help lawmakers in state capitals pass strong gun safety measures. Six states—North Dakota, New Jersey, Nevada, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah—received additional points this year for new domestic violence laws, with Tennessee raising its grade from an F to a D-. The state established procedures to ensure domestic abusers surrender firearms after becoming prohibited. Other states enacted laws to prohibit domestic violence misdemeanants and subjects of domestic violence restraining orders from possessing guns.

Five states—California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York—received more points for funding urban gun violence intervention and prevention programs,which are remarkably effective at saving lives. Last December, Giffords Law Center, in partnership with PICO National Network and the Community Justice Reform Coalition, released a landmark report, Investing in Intervention: The Critical Role of State-Level Support in Breaking the Cycle of Urban Gun Violence, which highlights innovative programs in three states that dramatically reduce levels of gun violence in impacted communities.

Another state, Oregon, received additional points for enacting an Extreme Risk Protection Order law that empowers families and law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily remove guns from people proven to be at risk to themselves or others. Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown signed an ERPO bill into law after members of the Giffords Oregon Coalition testified on behalf of the bill and urged Oregon leaders to pass it.

Politicians ignoring the will of the people hurt their state’s gun law scores—and safety 
States also experienced setbacks. Nevada’s grade dropped from a C- to a D because a ballot initiative approved by voters in 2016 requiring background checks on private sales of firearms was not implemented. Nevada’s attorney general has refused to let the law take  effect because of a dispute with the FBI over who should conduct the background checks. While voters strongly approved the background check law to help make sure dangerous individuals can’t buy guns, the attorney general, who spoke of his opposition to the requirement during a speech at the NRA Convention last year, set the state’s score, and public safety, back.

Two other states—North Dakota and New Hampshire—lost points for enacting permitless carry laws in 2017. Iowa also dropped from a C to a C- because of a new stand your ground law. Stand your ground laws remove a person’s “duty to retreat” in a public conflict, allowing them to shoot to kill even when they could safely walk away.

Activists are leading the charge to beat back dangerous gun lobby bills
This year’s Gun Law Scorecard also highlights how gun violence prevention advocates’ success in thwarting gun lobby–backed bills allowed many states to keep their high grades. In 2017, advocates were successful in stopping 26 permitless carry bills, which would allow people to carry loaded guns in public without a permit or oversight. Advocates alsostopped 20 states from enacting measures to allow guns on college and university campuses and beat back stand your ground laws in 11 other states.

Visit the Annual Gun Law Scorecard at gunlawscorecard.org

Experts Available for Comment

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Ammunition Regulation in Vermont

Vermont law prohibits any person, firm or corporation, other than a parent or guardian, from selling or furnishing any ammunition to a minor under age 16.1 Federal law, however, imposes stricter age requirements on the sale of ammunition.

Vermont does not:

See our Ammunition Regulation policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

 

Notes
  1. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4007. ⤴︎

Report on Gun Suicide—Confronting the Inevitability Myth

Our report Confronting the Inevitability Myth: How Data-Driven Gun Policies Save Lives from Suicide represents the culmination of a yearlong project to research and analyze the suicide crisis. This report provides an in-depth examination of the deadly role guns play in suicide in America and outlines the policies and intervention programs that have been proven to help prevent these tragedies.

Though we are living in a time of rising suicide rates, many Americans, including our lawmakers, buy into the pervasive myth that suicides are inevitable. Confronting the Inevitability Myth thoroughly debunks this misconception by arming readers with data and research from across the field showing how gun access drives suicide risk in this country and, consequently, how effective gun policy and intervention programs can save more lives. A data supplement within the report takes an even deeper dive to show just how significantly guns contribute to state suicide rates: compared to all other variables, including race, gender, rurality, substance abuse, and severe mental illness, gun access correlates the most with suicide death.

As Confronting the Inevitability Myth shows, suicide’s impact is enormous. Since 2000, more than half a million Americans have died by suicide, and the majority used a gun. But these deaths aren’t spread equally across the nation—states with immediate, unrestricted access to guns suffer a hugely disproportionate number of our nation’s suicides. Because gunshots are so uniquely lethal, they account for 5% of suicide attempts, but are responsible for 50% of suicide deaths. A variety of risk factors—including mental health conditions and trauma, addiction and isolation, bullying and abuse—drive some people to attempt suicide. But easy access to guns is often the determining factor in whether a person at risk survives.

The good news is that there are many steps we can take today to address this public health crisis because the simple, hopeful truth is that these deaths are preventable. By addressing the primary factors that drive suicide risk, including access to guns, we can make a lifesaving difference for many Americans. Confronting the Inevitability Myth outlines six essential policy solutions that work to prevent suicide by reducing people’s access to guns during a suicidal crisis:

  • Universal background checks help to keep severely suicidal people from acquiring guns after they have been involuntarily committed for their own safety.
  • Extreme Risk Protection Order laws empower family members to proactively protect their loved ones by petitioning a court to temporarily remove guns during a severe mental health crisis.
  • Voluntary gun relinquishment laws could help empower suicidal people to act to promote their own health and safety by limiting their access to guns during mental crises.
  • Firearm waiting periods provide a brief but crucial cooling off period to guard against impulsive, suicidal gun purchases.
  • Smart guns, safety training, and safe storage laws help keep children and teens from gaining unsupervised access to guns can meaningfully reduce youth suicide.
  • Healthcare-based suicide prevention programs have shown that medical professionals make a remarkable difference in reducing their patients’ risk of suicide if they have the training, freedom, and support to effectively counsel their patients about gun safety.

These best practices chart a clear path to progress on this issue, and there’s no better time to act on them than now. The changes we recommend in this report are modest and—to be clear—they are entirely consistent with the Second Amendment. But by understanding and addressing the factors that drive suicide risk, we can save more lives.

READ THE FULL REPORT: Confronting the Inevitability Myth: How Data-Driven Gun Policies Save Lives from Suicide

 

Pena v. Lindley: Amicus Brief Defending California’s Unsafe Handgun Act

Update — On August 3, 2018, the Ninth Circuit issued a favorable decision rejecting the challenge to California’s Unsafe Handgun Act, siding with the position Giffords Law Center argued for in our amicus brief.

Case InformationPena v. Lindley,  No. 15-15449 (9th Cir. Brief Filed Sept. 28, 2015)

At Issue: This case presents a Second Amendment challenge to the California Unsafe Handgun Act (“UHA”), which requires that all handguns must meet certain safety requirements before they may be sold within the State. The district court from the Eastern District of California rejected this challenge, noting that the UHA is a regulation on the commercial sale of arms and is therefore a “presumptively lawful” regulation falling outside the scope of the Second Amendment. The case is now on appeal before the Ninth Circuit.

The Law Center’s Brief: The Law Center’s brief addresses the importance of the Unsafe Handgun Act in keeping cheap and poorly made handguns off of the streets in California. The brief argues that the district court correctly concluded that the UHA law falls outside the scope of the Second Amendment, as it merely places a condition on the commercial sale of handguns and does not act as a prohibition. In the alternative, even if the UHA does burden conduct protected by the Second Amendment, it easily passes constitutional review under intermediate scrutiny, which is the appropriate level of review in this context, because of the minimal burden that the UHA imposes on the right to possess a firearm in the home for self-defense.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

 

Vt. Sportsmen’s Clubs v. Birmingham: Fighting for Vermont’s New Magazine Capacity Limits

Case Information: Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, et al. v. Birmingham, et al. (Vt. Super. Ct. amicus brief filed July 24, 2018).

At Issue: Vermont enacted a package of lifesaving and publicly supported gun safety measures after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. One of these critical new laws is S.55, which restricts access to the large-capacity ammunition magazines (LCMs) used in mass shootings from Sandy Hook to Las Vegas and countless other tragedies. Republican Governor Scott signed the bill shortly after the Vermont State Police stopped a would-be mass shooter from carrying out a school shooting at Fair Haven High School. The plaintiffs in this lawsuit argue that S.55 violates Article 16 of the Vermont Constitution.

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: We partnered with the Vermont Medical Society and GunSense Vermont on an amicus brief urging Vermont’s Superior Court to reject the meritless, gun-lobby backed challenge to S.55. Our amicus brief argues that Plaintiffs’ claims fail as a matter of law because LCMs pose an unjustifiable risk to public health and safety and Vermont’s magazine restrictions are wholly consistent with established precedent interpreting Article 16.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Read our press release about our amicus brief here.

 

 

Duncan v. Becerra: Partnering With California Lieutenant Governor Newsom to Defend Prop. 63

Update — On July 17, 2018, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit narrowly affirmed the preliminary injunction blocking implementation of California’s LCM possession ban. However, the appeals court did not decide the merits of the constitutional challenge, and found only that the district court’s preliminary decision was not an abuse of discretion. California’s law remains on hold pending a decision by the district court on whether to grant a permanent injunction and the Ninth Circuit’s resolution of an appeal of that decision.

Case Information: Duncan v. Becerra, No. 17-56081 (Ninth Circuit brief filed Oct. 19, 2017).

At Issue: Last November, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 63, a package of smart gun laws drafted by Giffords Law Center attorneys in partnership with California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. One of Prop. 63’s reforms closes a loophole in the state’s gun laws by prohibiting the possession of large capacity magazines (LCMs) capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. As Prop. 63’s effective date approached, gun lobby groups brought a constitutional challenge to the law, and persuaded a federal district judge to block implementation of the law’s LCM provisions pending a final decision on their challenge. The judge’s decision to block Prop. 63’s LCM provisions was an extreme departure from settled Second Amendment law, and the state immediately appealed the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom joined Giffords Law Center in submitting an amicus brief to the Ninth Circuit in support of Prop. 63. Our brief argued that the court should follow its own Second Amendment precedents, and the US Supreme Court’s decision in Heller, and allow Prop. 63’s LCM provisions to take effect. Our joint brief explained the critical need to close the LCM possession loophole and halt proliferation and use of military-grade magazines by criminals and mass shooters, including the shooter who recently used LCMs to murder 58 people in Las Vegas. Our brief argues that the Second Amendment plainly does not protect magazines that are unnecessary for self-defense and the favored tool of mass killers, and explains that the state of California has presented more than adequate evidence showing that the LCM restrictions will reduce the number of lives lost during mass shootings.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

MEMO: Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Dangerous Record on Gun Policy

Brett Kavanaugh remarks

On Monday, President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the DC Circuit to fill Justice Kennedy’s seat on the United States Supreme Court. The nominee has a troubling record on guns: Judge Kavanaugh has issued prior rulings that are ideologically aligned with the gun lobby and reflect a radical interpretation of the Constitution under which public safety justifications play no role in Second Amendment jurisprudence. Should Judge Kavanaugh be confirmed to the Court for life, the results could devastate elected officials’ ability to adopt the public safety measures Americans have repeatedly demanded after massacres like Parkland.

Background on Heller and the Second Amendment

Ten years ago last month, in a landmark 5–4 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, the US Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right of law-abiding citizens to possess a handgun in the home for self-defense. The Court struck down an extreme handgun ban in place in Washington DC, but cautioned that, like all rights, the Second Amendment is “not unlimited”: it is not a “right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” The Court provided a non-exhaustive list of gun regulations it said were presumptively lawful, confirming that public safety laws and self-defense rights can be harmonized under the Second Amendment.

Heller ushered in a flood of litigation, including gun lobby-backed cases that sought to expand Heller to invalidate even moderate gun regulations. These cases saw little success: reflecting the Supreme Court’s recognition that many firearm laws pose no constitutional problem, lower courts have rejected post-Heller challenges about 93% of the time. To date, consistent with Heller’s middle-ground approach, gun policy hasn’t been an unusually partisan issue among lower courts. Judges appointed by both Democrats and Republicans voted to uphold key gun safety measures after Heller, including minimum age laws, state and local assault weapon bans, concealed carry permitting laws, and risk-based gun removal laws. Over the last ten years, the conservative-leaning Supreme Court declined nearly every chance to review Second Amendment cases or expand on the Heller ruling. During this time, political opposition driven by the NRA, not Heller or judges, was by far the biggest obstacle to addressing the gun violence epidemic.

Most lower-court judges to consider Second Amendment cases have taken seriously Heller’s instruction that the Second Amendment is “not unlimited” by overwhelmingly voting to uphold laws that protect the public from gun violence without infringing constitutional rights. But a few judges, mostly those writing in dissenting opinions, have departed from this consensus view by broadly rejecting public safety justifications for firearm regulations and arguing that many more important measures are unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. Unfortunately, some of these dissenting judges are on President Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist, and one of them, Justice Neil Gorsuch, has already been confirmed to the Court. The confirmation of a second justice with views on gun policy that are radically far from mainstream could result in the dangerous expansion of Heller gun lobby groups have not been able to achieve thus far.

Judge Kavanaugh’s Record on Guns

In a follow-on case to Heller known as Heller II, Judge Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion arguing that Washington DC’s assault weapons ban and registration laws violate the Second Amendment. While two other judges cast deciding votes upholding both laws, Judge Kavanaugh instead sided with the gun lobby’s position that every type of firearm that is marketed and sold to enough Americans enjoys absolute constitutional protections, concluding that because assault weapons are in “common use” today and were not historically regulated, they cannot be prohibited under the Second Amendment. Similarly, Judge Kavanaugh determined that because most states do not require registration of firearms, it is unconstitutional to have a mandatory registration law—meaning that under his circular logic, any gun regulation that is not already widespread is constitutionally suspect.

In the same dissent in Heller II, Judge Kavanaugh interpreted the US Supreme Court’s decision in Heller to require judges to disregard compelling public safety justifications for gun regulations and consider only the text of the Second Amendment and the history and tradition of regulating in a certain area when deciding if a challenged law is constitutional. Under Judge Kavanaugh’s interpretation of the Second Amendment, there is an “absence of a role for judicial interest balancing or assessment of costs and benefits of gun regulations.” This radical view would allow judges to pick and choose which gun regulations have adequate historical support and invalidate all other laws. For example, Judge Kavanaugh might vote to strike down important gun safety laws that address modern dangers that did not exist at the time of the founding of the United States, like extreme-risk protection order laws that remove guns from the possession of likely mass shooters, and domestic violence restraining order laws that protect victims of domestic abuse (a crime that wasn’t even recognized in early American history).

Finally, while Judge Kavanaugh has not issued a major ruling on the issue of public carry of firearms outside the home, he did cast a dissenting procedural vote in Grace v. District of Columbia stating he would leave in place a lower-court ruling striking down DC’s concealed carry licensing law pending appellate review. This suggests that Judge Kavanaugh was sympathetic to the view that the District of Columbia’s “good reason” requirement for concealed carry permit applicants is unconstitutional, a position that places him well outside the mainstream. Judges have overwhelmingly upheld similar concealed carry requirements, including those in place in California, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey—and in each case, the US Supreme Court denied review, leaving favorable lower-court decisions upholding strong concealed carry permitting laws in place.

The above rulings should concern anyone who believes our leaders must remain empowered to take action to stem America’s gun violence crisis. But President Trump’s selection of a judge with outlier views is no coincidence: it reflects the clout of the NRA and its influence over the Administration’s policies and judicial nomination strategies. In early 2017, the NRA spent $1 million to support the nomination of Neil Gorsuch—and once Justice Gorsuch joined the Court, he joined a dissenting opinion arguing that California’s strong concealed carry laws violate the Second Amendment. President Trump’s nomination of Judge Kavanaugh seems a clear demonstration that the President is still letting the gun lobby dictate his policies, contradicting his own call for meaningful action after the massacre in Parkland.

Impact on Critical Firearm Policy Issues

While applying Heller’s holding that individuals have a constitutional right to use a handgun for self-defense in the home, lower courts have generally exercised caution when confronting issues not yet addressed by the Supreme Court. This means some substantive Second Amendment questions lack definitive answers. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Judge Kavanaugh could play a key role in shaping the Court’s rulings on these and other areas of gun policy.

Concealed Carry

Heller recognized that “the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider” the issue of concealed carry of firearms upheld restrictions that were far more stringent than the moderate concealed carry regulations states have adopted today. While numerous federal courts, including the Second, Third, Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits, have interpreted Heller to allow for appropriately strong concealed carry regulations in public, one outlier court struck down a good-cause concealed carry permitting law in the District of Columbia. Seeking to capitalize on that decision, the NRA recently backed a series of lawsuits challenging strong concealed carry permitting systems in New Jersey, Maryland, and New York, and filed a brief arguing that Massachusetts’ concealed carry standards are unconstitutional. One or more of these cases may be taken up by the US Supreme Court after Justice Kennedy’s replacement is confirmed.

Assault Weapon and Large-Capacity Magazine Restrictions

Heller stated that the Second Amendment is not a “right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose” and recognized that dangerous and unusual weapons, like those “most useful in military service,” may be prohibited. Many courts, including the Second, Fourth, Seventh, and DC Circuits, and district courts in Colorado and California, have applied this reasoning to uphold assault weapon or large-capacity magazine (LCM) restrictions. However, one outlier trial court recently sided with the NRA in a challenge to California’s LCM possession ban, holding that the ban was likely unconstitutional and suggesting that magazine limits of any size pose a constitutional problem (that decision is being appealed). The California case—as well as gun lobby-backed suits challenging LCM laws in Vermont and New Jersey—may, in the near future, be appealed and eventually presented for Supreme Court review.

Post-Parkland Gun Safety Legislation

States have adopted 52 new gun safety laws since the school shooting in Parkland, FL. Gun lobby groups have responded to this renewed political and legislative energy by filing new court challenges to block gun safety laws. Lawsuits challenging Florida’s new minimum age law, Maryland and Florida’s trigger activator bans, and local gun safety ordinances may tee up new Second Amendment issues for intermediate appellate courts, and possibly the US Supreme Court, in the years to come.

The Supreme Court has declined to weigh in on any of the above issues in the ten years since Heller, leaving it unclear how some members of the current Court would resolve these cases. Some justices, including Justices Thomas and Scalia and, recently, Justice Gorsuch, have revealed their views by dissenting from the decision to deny review in Second Amendment cases, expressing that they would prefer to grant review and strike down gun regulations in key policy areas. Because it only takes 4 votes for the Supreme Court to grant review, the four more reliably conservative justices could have granted review in Second Amendment challenges without Justice Kennedy. It is possible the Court declined to do so because Justice Kennedy was a moderating force on Second Amendment issues who was unlikely to strike down the reasonable gun regulations Justices Gorsuch and Thomas disfavor. If true, Judge Kavanaugh’s potential confirmation to the Supreme Court presents a disturbing possibility that a new coalition of justices will vote to hear more firearm cases and strike down more lifesaving laws under a radically broad conception of the Second Amendment.

Statements on Kavanaugh’s Nomination

In response to President Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court, Giffords and Giffords Law Center released the following statements:

Former Representative Gabrielle Giffords

“In nominating Judge Kavanaugh to be the next Supreme Court justice, the Trump Administration is once again showing brazen disregard for the people it claims to protect. Judge Kavanaugh’s dangerous views on the Second Amendment are far outside the mainstream of even conservative thought and stand in direct opposition to the values and priorities of the vast majority of Americans. America needs a Supreme Court justice who respects the Second Amendment but who also realizes reasonable regulations that reduce gun violence do not infringe on anyone’s constitutional rights. But that’s not the kind of justice President Trump nominated today.

“America’s gun violence epidemic weighs daily on the minds of so many families in our country. Parents live in fear of hearing their children describe to them what it’s like to go through an active shooter drill. Too many people in communities across the country live in fear of being shot in their neighborhoods. In states across the country, students and voters have been speaking up, taking to statehouses, and demanding that lawmakers pass effective gun safety legislation. Their advocacy is delivering results: just since the massacre in Parkland, more than 50 gun safety bills have passed in 26 states. Should the Senate confirm the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh, we have every indication to believe that he will prioritize an agenda backed by the gun lobby, putting corporate interests before public safety. Make no mistake, the progress we’ve achieved passing firearm laws that save lives every day will be in serious danger.”

Hannah Shearer, Staff Attorney and Second Amendment Litigation Director

“Judge Kavanaugh has expressed a dangerous hostility toward reasonable gun regulations and made clear he believes the government’s power to address gun violence is extremely limited. Judge Kavanaugh rejects the idea that courts should consider public safety when judging gun cases and would strike down bedrock gun laws like those that restrict civilian use of the dangerous, military-style weapons regularly used in mass shootings.

“Even Justice Scalia, one of the most conservative Supreme Court justices in modern history, endorsed reasonable firearm regulations like the ones Judge Kavanaugh would strike down. Judge Kavanaugh’s positions on the Second Amendment are outliers far outside the mainstream, and confirming him to the Supreme Court could negatively impact efforts to fight gun violence for many years to come. The notion of Judge Kavanaugh serving on our nation’s highest judicial bench should worry Americans who care about the safety of their families and communities. Now is the time for them to speak up and demand a nominee who will respect centuries of American legal tradition, recognize that gun rights have always gone hand-in-hand with responsible regulations, and put the life and liberty of all Americans ahead of the interests of the gun lobby.”

 

NSSF v. State of California: Defending California’s Groundbreaking Handgun Microstamping Law

Update — On June 28, 2018, the California Supreme Court issued a favorable decision rejecting the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s challenge to California’s microstamping law, siding with the position Giffords Law Center argued for in our amicus brief.

Case InformationNational Shooting Sports Foundation Inc. v.  State of California, No. S239397 (California Supreme Court brief filed Nov. 13, 2017).

At Issue: In 2007, California passed a law designed to reduce the number of unsolved gun crimes by requiring that new handgun models sold in the state include microstamping technology. Microstamping imprints a serial number onto shell casings when a shot is fired, and represents a significant improvement on traditional ballistic identification techniques. Unsurprisingly, law enforcement groups strongly support this revolutionary crime-solving tool. However, gun manufacturers have repeatedly opposed microstamping, first by attempting to block action by the California legislature, and then by refusing to sell new handgun models in the state. The latest volley by the gun industry came when an industry group filed litigation arguing that the microstamping law is invalid because it is infeasible for gunmakers to comply with it. In NSSF v. State of California, the California Supreme Court has taken up the narrow legal question of whether gun manufacturers may file suit against a duly-enacted product regulation by claiming compliance is “impossible” (NSSF’s lawsuit does not raise any broader constitutional claims).

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: Our brief argues that microstamping has been shown to be a feasible and reliable technology in empirical studies and live demonstrations before police officers. But even accepting NSSF’s baseless claim about the technology’s feasibility, the lawsuit must still be dismissed, because California’s microstamping law does not require gunmakers to do what they claim is impossible. Rather, the law merely bars introducing new handgun models in the state until gunmakers sufficiently develop microstamping technology and are able to implement it—which the evidence suggests is already easily possible. Our brief explains that the microstamping law is therefore consistent with a longstanding tradition of laws that require manufacturers to improve the safety or mitigate the environmental impact of a given product in order to have continued access to a state market. For instance, California leads the nation by setting emissions caps which carmakers must meet to sell vehicles in the state. Allowing NSSF’s unsupported “impossibility” claim would threaten the validity of such emissions standards, and many other commonplace consumer regulations that are essential to protecting public health and safety.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.

Malpasso v. Pallozzi: Defending Maryland’s Strong Public Carry Regulations

Case Information: Malpasso v. Pallozzi, No. 18-cv-01064 (D. Md. brief filed June 18, 2018).

At Issue: This case involves a Second Amendment challenge to Maryland’s concealed carry laws, which require applicants for permits to carry loaded, concealed handguns in public to demonstrate a “good and substantial reason” for obtaining a permit. Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit claiming that this good-reason standard violates the Second Amendment—taking the extreme position that Maryland cannot authorize its law enforcement officers to protect public safety by enforcing meaningful public carry regulations.

Giffords Law Center’s Brief: Our brief argues that this Second Amendment challenge is foreclosed by binding Fourth Circuit precedent (Woollard v. Gallagher, 712 F.3d 865 (4th Cir. 2013)). In addition, since Woollard was decided in 2013, compelling new empirical evidence has confirmed the challenged law’s constitutionality and the need for states to adopt discretionary permitting standards to protect public safety. No current or credible data supports the weak hypothesis, advanced by gun lobby lawyers and by some discredited researchers, that concealed carry has a crime-deterring effect.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.