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State legislatures rolled back gun restrictions this year

State legislatures rolled back gun restrictions this year
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Gun rights advocates scored new victories in states across the country this year as legislators voted to expand access to guns and implement new protections for those who carry concealed weapons.

The new laws include measures that will allow gun owners to carry weapons without a special permit, as well as carry those weapons in places like day care facilities, official state buildings and on college campuses. 

Those measures could earn new attention in the wake of Sunday’s shooting in Las Vegas, where more than 50 people were killed and 500 were injured when a gunman opened fire on a crowded concert venue in what is the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

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But the fact that those laws passed in the first place, in the year after a horrific mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., illustrates the power gun rights advocates wield in state legislatures, especially those states where Republicans control all levels of government.

After Republicans claimed control of Iowa’s state legislature in the 2016 elections, lawmakers this year passed the most sweeping package of gun rights laws in the country. The Iowa measure, House File 517, creates a so-called stand your ground policy. It also prevents cities from enacting stronger restrictions on gun rights than are permitted under state law. 

The measure, signed by then-Gov. Terry Branstad (R), also allows concealed carry holders to enter the state Capitol building with their firearms.

New Hampshire and North Dakota will eliminate requirements for obtaining a permit for carrying concealed firearms, a measure gun rights advocates call constitutional carry. The Indiana and Wisconsin legislatures are considering similar measures that could move as early as this year.

Concealed carry permit holders in four other states will be able to carry their weapons in more areas where guns had previously been banned.

Ohio permit holders will be allowed to carry concealed weapons in day care facilities and in public parts of airports. Those in Wyoming will be allowed to carry firearms in K-12 schools. Georgia and Arkansas residents may carry firearms on college and university campuses.

And in Texas, lawmakers decriminalized possession of suppressors.

Several more aggressive efforts to roll back gun regulations failed this year. Iowa and Nebraska lawmakers blocked proposals to end background check requirements for those seeking to buy a firearm.

Constitutional carry measures failed in South Dakota and Montana, where legislators could not override the governor’s veto. A similar measure stalled in the Texas legislature.

Some states passed measures restricting gun access. Oregon legislators allowed residents concerned about family members or friends to seek an extreme risk protection order, which would block an individual with mental health issues from obtaining a weapon. 

Legislators in eight states — Rhode Island, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Tennessee and Utah — passed new measures to curb gun ownership for those who have been convicted of domestic abuse.

“We are seeing strong bipartisan laws to keep people safe from gun violence in red, purple and blue states,” said Kate Folmar, a spokeswoman for Everytown for Gun Safety, a group bankrolled by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “We’re also seeing states really reject the gun lobby’s guns-everywhere agenda.”

A National Rifle Association (NRA) spokeswoman did not comment by deadline.

Three additional measures restricting gun rights have passed California’s state legislature. One would ban guns on college campuses. Another would restrict the rights of gun owners to carry firearms in the open. And a third strengthens storage and security requirements on gun dealers. All three bills await Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) signature.

New measures in Hawaii and Washington will require gun dealers to notify state law enforcement agencies when someone fails a background check required to purchase a gun. Tennessee passed a similar measure last year.

After chafing for years under the Obama administration, gun rights supporters have new allies in the Trump administration. In his first months on the job, President Trump signed legislation rolling back an Obama-era rule limiting access to guns for those with a mental health condition.

The Justice Department also ended Operation Choke Point, another Obama-era program aimed at preventing criminal fraud in the gun industry.

The Republican-led Congress could act as soon as this week on a new measure to end a federal requirement to register suppressors and to expand protections for those who travel with guns across state lines. Gun owners have an estimated 1.3 million suppressors they have registered with the federal government.

The NRA has been especially active on Capitol Hill this year, after spending millions to elect Trump and Republican members of Congress. The group has spent $3.2 million lobbying Congress during the first half of the year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s more than the $3.18 million the NRA spent on lobbying activities in all of 2016.