Lawmakers and advocates in 2016 sought to expand gun rights or implement gun control measures in a number of states, with a measure of success on both sides.
At the end of the year, the number of states who had adopted constitutional carry laws had ballooned while California lawmakers were able to implement some of the toughest gun restrictions ever.
Mississippi became the 10th state to codify the right to carry a concealed handgun without first having to get a permit after Gov. Phil Bryant’s signature on a popular bill in April, following on the heels of Idaho‘s decision the month prior.
In both West Virginia and Missouri, lawmakers wrangled enough votes to override vetoes from Democrat governors to make constitutional carry the law of the land. An override attempt in New Hampshire failed.
In Ohio, Republican Gov. John Kasich signed a sweeping gun bill in December that will expand concealed carry rights and modify a number of gun free zones, including those at schools, airports and day care centers while in Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill offering protections for public employees to carry firearms while at work.
Meanwhile, modest reforms ordered to New Jersey’s strict “may-issue” permitting scheme by Republican Gov. Chris Christie were torpedoed by the Democrat-controlled state legislature.
A new law in Texas saw lawful concealed carry on the state’s public colleges and university become effective on Aug. 1 despite last-minute court filings by University of Texas professors who argued legally armed students could stifle their First Amendment rights.
The same day in May that Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal rejected a measure to allow concealed carry at post-secondary schools, a college freshman was fatally stabbed on campus after he came to the defense of three women. Neighboring Tennessee dropped gun free ones for public university faculty the same month.
Anti-gun groups in Washington and Oregon asked state lawmakers and officials to join with California to establish a “West Coast Wall” against guns they consider “assault weapons.” In turn, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced he would submit agency request legislation to state lawmakers seeking to lower the boom on guns such as the AR-15 and detachable magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds.
This came just weeks after the terror attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that led President Obama and others to call for a reinstatement of the expired federal assault weapon ban. Such deep red states as Georgia at one time or another in 2016 saw lawmakers propose ill-fated sweeping bans on some semi-auto firearms and their magazines, saying they aren’t needed for deer hunting.
Although the Colorado Senate voted for the second time in as many years to end the state’s limit on magazines holding 15 or more rounds, the effort was blocked by the Democrat-controlled state House.
In April, Florida lawmakers voted to decriminalized “slung shot” for the first time since 1868 with the support of Second Amendment advocates.
Iowa became the 42nd state to legalize civilian suppressor ownership in March after Republican Gov. Terry Branstad signed bipartisan legislation to remove state laws against possession, sale and manufacture of suppressors.
Other attempts to legalize suppressors in Illinois came close, but in the end, couldn’t make the push to law.
The Obama administration moved to lift the requirement for Chief Law Enforcement Officer certifications on NFA items, which led to the controversial 41F rule from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which in turn tightened regulations on gun trusts.
Expanded background checks
Voters in Maine rejected a voter referendum campaign to expand background checks to include most gun transfers while a similar measure in Nevada — backed with $19.7 million in funding from gun control organs — narrowly passed only to see the state attorney general rule it unenforceable.
In the Pacific, Gov. David Ige signed a series of gun control bills that will make Hawaii the first state to put lawful gun owners in a federal database for continuous monitoring.
A series of gun control amendments ranging from so-called “no fly/no buy” bills to universal background checks all tanked in the U.S. Senate after a filibuster by Sen. Chris Murphy in the wake of the Pulse nightclub terror attack brought the measures to a vote.
After years of trying, lawmakers in November sent Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolfe a bill to authorize the state game commission to approve semi-automatic and air rifles for hunting. The agency will hash out the details next year.
Leaving antiquated blue laws behind, Delaware approved some limited Sunday hunting in August.
Michigan‘s Natural Resources Commission approved the use of NFA-compliant suppressors by hunters in a regular meeting in February. In April, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bipartisan measure to grant the right for Oklahomans to hunt with a suppressor on both public and private land as Indiana Gov. Mike Pence approved the use of rifles for hunting deer despite pushback from state conservation authorities.
In both Indiana and Kansas, voters approved constitutional right to hunt and fish ballot questions in November.
On the federal level, Congress left a sweeping bipartisan sportsmen’s package on the table when they adjourned although it had been passed in both chambers by wide margins. Gun rights groups that have been stumping for the bills for at the better part of a decade have vowed to begin the process with a new Congress in 2017.
More restrictions to California
Through a variety of gun control legislation signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown and voter approval of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “Safety for All” Prop. 63 ballot referendum, gun owners in California will face a vastly different landscape in 2017. The mandate to require background checks prior to all ammunition sales in Newsom’s Prop. 63 is expected to face legal challenges while emergency rules for disabling once-grandfathered magazines capable of holding 10 or more rounds are being circulated by the California Department of Justice.
Gun confiscation orders
Taking their cue from a California law, gun control groups financed in large part by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg were able to pass a ballot referendum to in Washington state to allow a family member to file a petition for an Extreme Risk Protection Order. Such an order, if granted, would allow a judge to decide if a subject poses a threat to themselves or others and order their firearms picked up by police for up to one year. The measure passed with the support of 70 percent of Washington voters and took effect in December.
In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a bill in May to force gun owners to surrender their firearms within a day of a temporary restraining order in cases of domestic violence.
While Republican lawmakers have vowed to block the move and even introduced legislation to protect Social Security beneficiaries from losing their Second Amendment rights, the measures have gained little traction. The agency released its final rule in December that would see an estimated 75,000 individuals per year forwarded to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the database federal firearms licensed dealers use to determine whether a prospective buyer is eligible to buy firearms and/or explosives. This would effectively make them a prohibited firearms possessor.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration celebrated his historic move to grant more than 1,000 commutations to federal inmates during his tenure — more than the past 11 chief executives — despite the fact a fair percentage who received clemency were doing hard time for a gun-related violation.
With the prospect of a gun-friendly President Trump in the White House for the next four years, GOP lawmakers have established caucuses to move forward legislation on deregulating suppressors and seeking nationwide concealed carry licensing reciprocity. Democrats are vowing to fight at every turn if necessary.