AG Actions Spotlight: Gun Violence Prevention

June 5, 2019

The Topline: Democratic AGs are leaders on gun safety in their states. Although the powers of each individual state Attorney General varies, as the chief legal officers in their states, Democratic AGs can and do use the legal tools available to protect good gun laws, challenge dangerous policies that put our families and communities at risk, and advocate for solutions to the gun violence that kills 100 Americans every day. From defending strong state legislation at the highest levels to championing local community engagement programs focused on reducing violence, Democratic AGs are making a difference.

Representing states with some of the strongest gun laws and lowest rates of gun violence, Democratic AGs are one of the most critical offices combating the gun violence epidemic in America.

Recent Multi-State Actions:

  • In November 2018, 16 Democratic AGs filed an amicus brief supporting New Jersey’s ban on large capacity magazines.
  • In September 2018, 12 Democratic AGs filed an amicus brief defending the constitutionality of a Hawaii law limiting public carry of firearms.
  • In August 2018, 21 Democratic AGs secured a preliminary injunction blocking the Trump administration from distributing blueprints of 3D-printed “ghost guns.”
  • In June 2018, 12 Democratic AGs filed an amicus brief in support of a Massachusetts law that prevents private citizens from obtaining a concealed carry license unless they demonstrate a justifiable need.
  • In October 2017, 13 Democratic AGs filed an amicus brief with the 9th Circuit in support of California’s ban on large-capacity magazines.
  • In July 2017, 14 Democratic AGs filed an amicus brief urging the court to overturn a class action settlement arranged by Remington.

Spotlight on Individual Democratic AG Actions:

  • California AG Xavier Becerra secured numerous court victories defending California’s strong gun laws and AG Becerra is continuing to push successful investigations into illegal guns in California.
    • The push has reduced the number of individuals in the APPS database – those who own illegal firearms – to a historic low.
      • Since 2013, CA has retrieved 19,151 firearms, including 705 assault-type weapons like the one used yesterday in Florida, from individuals who have committed crimes or have proven too dangerous to possess them.
      • In LA recently, agents went in to collect two known registered firearms, they walked out with 25, including assault type weapons, 18 magazines (including high capacity ones), and 2,000 rounds of ammunition.
  • Colorado AG Phil Weiser testified before the State Senate in support of a bill to establish a “red flag” law in Colorado and consistently defends the law’s constitutionality against opposition.
  • Connecticut AG William Tong submitted testimony in support of four gun violence prevention bills during CT’s legislative session. During his tenure in the statehouse prior to serving as AG,  Tong was a leader on the the reforms after Sandy Hook and Lori Jackson’s Law, a measure which took guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and was named for Ms. Jackson, another victim of senseless gun violence.
  • Delaware AG Kathy Jennings backed legislation to ban assault weapons, limit magazine capacity to 15 rounds, and require a permit to purchase a gun.
  • District of Columbia AG Karl Racine launched a lauded “Cure the Streets” violence interruption program to take a public health approach to preventing gun violence.
  • Illinois AG Kwame Raoul supported a bill to require gun dealers in Illinois to be certified and licensed by the state. AG Raoul has made reducing gun violence and empowering survivors a key priority of his tenure. The Illinois OAG criminal enforcement division initiated a gun trafficking prosecution unit, the office is currently working to establish a crime gun tracing platform, and they are planning to expand the crime victims services bureau to better assist survivors of gun violence.
  • Iowa AG Tom Miller called on the legislature to pass laws prohibiting domestic abusers from possessing guns.
  • Kentucky AG Andy Beshear created a “Survivors Council” to allow survivors of gun violence and other crimes to have a voice in policymaking.
  • Maine AG Aaron Frey backed a bill to create a panel to review police shootings.
  • Maryland AG Brian Frosh led the fight in the legislature to ban the sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and later successfully defended the law in court as attorney general.
  • Massachusetts AG Maura Healey beat back the NRA after they sued dismantle Massachusetts Assault Weapons Ban after they stepped up enforcement after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. AG Healey won. The Massachusetts AGs office partnered with the Massachusetts Medical Society to develop two educational brochures. For patients, they discuss gun safety, from storage to safe disposal. For providers, they offer tips for gun-related conversations & info on reporting.
  • Michigan AG Dana Nessel withdrew the state from a case that her Republican predecessor had signed on to opposing bans on interstate handgun sales and the ability of New York City to enact restrictions on the transportation of guns.
  • Minnesota AG Keith Ellison earned an endorsement from Moms Demand Action during his run for AG for his long-standing support for gun safety measures as a Member of Congress, and he has continued to fight for gun safety laws as attorney general.
  • Nevada AG Aaron Ford testified before the legislature, calling on them to close the gun show loophole and breaking with the previous Republican administration, AG Ford expressed he believes he Background Check initiative passed in 2016 is enforceable.
  • New Jersey AG Gurbir Grewal filed the first lawsuit against a company that offered untraceable “ghost guns” for sale.
  • New Mexico AG Hector Balderas warned sheriffs and police chiefs that they must enforce the state’s new background check law.
  • New York AG Tish James launched an investigation into the NRA’s financial dealings.
  • North Carolina AG Josh Stein filed a brief calling on the Court of Appeals to allow LGBTQ couples in the state to obtain domestic violence protection orders which would offer better protection against gun owning accused abusers.
  • Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro launched a partnership with the Philadelphia Police, Philadelphia District Attorney, and ATF to crack down on illegal gun trafficking.
  • Oregon AG Ellen Rosenblum released a resource informing the public of how the state’s “red flag” law works.
  • Rhode Island AG Peter Neronha introduced a legislative package to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines and prohibit concealed-carry weapons on school grounds.
  • Vermont AG T.J. Donovan backed legislation that would make it harder for domestic abusers to obtain guns.
  • Virginia AG Mark Herring issued an opinion stating that a local school board’s decision to arm teachers is unlawful.
  • Washington AG Bob Ferguson sponsored bills this past legislative session to limit high capacity magazines to 10 rounds and enhance background checks and waiting periods for assault weapon purchases.
    • Ferguson was the first statewide official in Washington state to propose a ban on the sale of assault weapons. This year, his AG request legislation to ban untraceable, undetectable 3D-printed ghost guns passed the Washington state legislature and was signed into law. Ferguson has also proposed legislation to ban the sale of high capacity magazines.
    • Ferguson has defended and is continuing to defend Washington state’s voter-approved gun safety initiatives against legal challenges from the gun lobby. These include common-sense reforms such as enhanced background checks, raising the purchasing age for semi-automatic rifles to 21, and a mandatory 10-day waiting period.
    • Ferguson successfully won a nationwide injunction blocking the Trump administration’s efforts to allow downloadable, 3D-printed ghost-guns to be distributed online.
  • Wisconsin AG Josh Kaul advocated for a “red flag” law.

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