How states are seeking to loosen controls on guns; here’s a look at efforts nationwideon March 24, 2021 at 5:00 pm

Mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado, that left at least 18 people dead have reignited calls by gun control advocates for tighter restrictions on buying firearms and ammunition.

But with Democrats in control of the federal government, Republican-run state legislatures have been making it easier to obtain and carry guns.

Here’s a look at how the politics of gun legislation are playing out this year:

MIXED PROSPECTS FOR NEW LAWS

The Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives adopted measures this month to expand background checks to all gun purchases and expand the time to to vet people flagged through nationwide background checks.

To pass in the Senate, though, the support of every Democrat would be needed. And that’s not a sure thing.

States led by Democrats are pushing to expand some gun control laws.

Maryland lawmakers overrode a veto from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on a bill to require background checks for all sales and transfers of rifles and shotguns. Previously, checks were required only for sales of handguns and long guns by licensed firearms dealers.

In Washington state, a proposed ban on high-capacity magazines has stalled. But a measure to ban carrying weapons openly at the state Capitol or during permitted demonstrations has cleared one house of the Legislature and awaits a vote in the other.

California lawmakers are expected to require individual identifiers on all bullet casings to include weapons used by law enforcement. Proponents say this would help investigate shootings by police and make it easier to solve crimes. Critics say it’s based on unworkable technology.

And at least five states have bills that would require or expand waiting periods before the purchase of a gun.

NULLIFYING, PREEMPTING LAWS

Lawmakers in at least a dozen states have introduced legislation to prohibit police officers from enforcing any federal gun-control laws that might be passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden. Some of the bills would make officers who do so subject to lawsuits or criminal charges.

Courts struck down similar nullification laws passed in Republican-controlled states when President Barack Obama was in the White House.

Some states also are considering bans on future laws or local ordinances that would restrict gun rights.

In New Hampshire, Republican lawmakers are pushing for a state constitutional amendment that would block the Legislature from restricting gun rights. That would need voter approval. Another bill would block local governments from restricting firearms.

ALLOWING GUNS IN MORE PLACES

Several states are expanding where people can take their guns.

In Tennessee, most adults over 21 would be allowed to carry firearms — concealed or in the open — without a permit under a measure advanced by that state’s Senate this month.

Most states require background checks and firearm safety training for people who want to be allowed to carry weapons in public. But 15 states already have laws allowing permitless carry for concealed guns. Nine states are considering measures to allow or expand the practice. One was sent Monday to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, for her signature.

In Montana, Gov. Greg Gianforte, the first Republican to hold the job in 16 years, signed a bill that relaxes gun restrictions. It allows concealed firearms to be carried in most places without a permit and expands the list of places where guns can be carried to include university campuses and the state Capitol. Similar measures are being pushed in Oklahoma and West Virginia.

‘STAND YOUR GROUND’ GAINS TRACTION

In January, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, signed a “Stand Your Ground” bill that eliminates an individual’s duty to retreat before using force.

DeWine acted despite his criticism of Republican lawmakers for ignoring his own legislation seeking to toughen background checks and boosting penalties for felons committing new crimes with guns. The governor proposed those measures after a 2019 mass shooting in Dayton.

A “Stand Your Ground” measure has been approved by the South Dakota Legislature and awaits Republican Gov. Kristi Noem’s signature.

STATE OF THE COURTS

A federal judiciary system that is more conservative after nominations by former President Donald Trump gives gun-rights advocates hope that pro-gun measures will be left intact by courts and restrictions will be tossed out.

One big test has been in California. In 2016, voters there approved a measure banning magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Two federal courts have struck down the restriction. Last month, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to have 11 judges consider the case.

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear challenges to several gun-control laws. Since then, liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has died and her former seat has been filled by a conservative Trump appointee, Amy Coney Barrett.

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