U.S. Gun Laws Strengthened since Sandy Hook Shootings

A new review of U.S. gun laws, Updated Evidence and Policy Developments on Reducing Gun Violence in America, recently published by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, looks at new developments in gun policies since the school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last year.

The review includes updates on topics including:

  • Background checks
  • Handgun purchaser licensing
  • Smart technology that would make a gun useable only by its owner or a designee
  • Measures to improve the capacity of the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce federal laws against gun traffickers
  • Legislation at the state level to reduce intimate partner violence offenders’ access to firearms.

“Contrary to popular belief, the tragic loss of life at Sandy Hook elementary school led to a number of significant policy developments, particularly stronger gun laws at the state level,” said Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, and an editor and author of  the new review.

Some of the state data in the review comes from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a non-profit group based in San Francisco.

According to the Law Center, key gun laws passed or updated last year in California include:

  • Any gun owner living with a person who is prohibited from owning firearms under state or federal law must : 1) keep the firearm within a locked container, locked gun safe, locked trunk, locked with a locking device, or disabled by a firearm safety device; or 2) carry the firearm on his or her person.
  • Prohibitions against the use of  “conversion kits” to manufacture large capacity ammunition magazines and the purchase of large capacity ammunition magazines and strengthening of the definition of “manufacture” in the current law to clarify that manufacturing includes assembling the parts of a magazine
  • Under prior California law, “handgun safety certificates” issued by the Department of Justice which require the applicant to take and pass a written test on firearm safety, are required for the purchase of a handgun, but not for the purchase of a long gun. A new law expands the safety certificate requirement to apply to purchases of all firearms, except long guns owned by persons with valid hunting licenses.
  • An appropriation to address a  backlog in the DOJ database for tracking persons prohibited from owning firearms.
  • A prior law prohibited a person who communicates to a licensed psychotherapist a serious threat of physical violence against a reasonably identifiable victim or victims from possessing a firearm for six months following the psychotherapist’s reporting of the threat to local law enforcement. The updated law changes the  prohibition from six months to five years and amends existing laws that require the reporting of mental health information to DOJ to clarify that these reports must made electronically.
  • In certain circumstances, California law imposes criminal liability on firearm owners who, through their negligence, enable children to access their weapons. Previously, that law only applied when the child carried the weapon off the premises or killed or injured someone. That law was expanded to apply whenever a person negligently stores or leaves a loaded firearm on his or her premises in a location where the person knows, or reasonably should know, that a child is likely to gain access to the firearm, regardless of whether a child actually acquires control of the firearm.
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