Gun Laws & Legislation In 2017
Here is a summary of the top stories brought to you in 2017 via the NRA-ILA Grassroots Alert. As we move into critically important election year of 2018, we must continue to ensure we’re prepared to meet the great opportunities and challenges before us. We will continue to provide you with information in future Alerts to ensure you have the information necessary to protect and advance your rights.
- With his successor’s inauguration only hours away, President Obama completed his final assault on gun owners’ and sportsmen’s rights, this time in the form of Director’s Order No. 219 of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The order sought to expand “the use of nontoxic ammunition and fishing tackle on Service lands, waters and facilities and for certain types of hunting and fishing regulated by the Service” outside of those areas.
- Gun owners across the nation breathed a sigh of relief as Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Trump’s election was the result of a sweeping grassroots movement to upend the Washington status quo and restore the concept of popular sovereignty in America. Your NRA was among Trump’s earliest and most faithful backers during a campaign in which conventional wisdom gave him no chance of winning. As a concealed carry permit holder, Second Amendment advocate, and father to two enthusiastic hunters and shooters, Trump may well be the most pro-gun president to date.
- America lost a civil rights icon and a true free thinker with the death of Roy Innis. Mr. Innis served on the NRA’s Board of Directors for nearly 25 years and was a friend to many within the organization. For the nation at large, he was a champion of freedom who exemplified the courage of a man who follows his own convictions. He counseled other African Americans that gun control “was not meant to protect your safety; it was meant to deprive you of your freedom.” By disarming law abiding citizens the government aids and abets crime, he explained to the New York Times.
- President Trump kept one of his most important campaign promises by nominating an originalist judge – Neil Gorsuch – to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. Judge Gorsuch’s embrace of originalism is a bulwark for our Second Amendment rights. When given the opportunity to consider the matter in his professional capacity, Judge Gorsuch has made clear that he understands the importance of the individual right to keep and bear arms.
- Jeff Sessions, the former U.S. senator from Alabama, was confirmed as the new U.S. attorney general. The NRA had heavily supported Sessions’ nomination, and he enjoyed the support of the entire Republican caucus in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) also crossed the aisle to confirm the long-time Alabama senator.
- The Washington Post reported on a “white paper” written by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Associate Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer Ronald Turk that outlined several changes that ATF could make to decrease the burdens placed on gun owners and the firearm industry while maintaining public safety. Titled “Options to Reduce or Modify Firearms Regulations”, the document covers a raft of issues that NRA has previously worked to address, and vindicates NRA’s long-held contentions about the dubious efficacy of many firearms regulations.
- President Donald J. Trump signed the repeal of an Obama-era Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that would have resulted in some 75,000 law-abiding beneficiaries losing their Second Amendment rights each year. The SSA rulemaking was issued in the waning weeks of Obama’s presidency and targeted those receiving disability insurance or Supplementary Security Income based on SSA’s listed mental disorders and who were appointed a “representative payee” to help them manage their benefits. The agency –for the first time in its history– sought to portray these individuals as “mental defectives” who were prohibited from acquiring or possessing firearms under federal law. It had planned to notify them of their prohibited status and to report them to NICS.
- The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1181, the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act, sponsored by Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. H.R. 1181 in many respects mirrors a resolution to repeal an Obama-era Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that sought to deprive certain SSA beneficiaries of their Second Amendment rights. A federal statute prohibits firearm acquisition or possession by anyone who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective.” The statute, however, does not define the meaning of this term. Like the SSA, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) interprets the phrase very broadly, considering any VA beneficiary who is declared “incompetent” to manage his or her benefits and assigned a fiduciary for assistance to be a prohibited “mental defective.”
- The National Safety Council released the 2017 edition of its annual “Injury Facts Report”, which contained welcomed news about firearm safety. The number of fatal firearm accidents dropped to the lowest point ever (since 1903, when the data was first tracked). There were 489 total fatal firearm accidents nationwide – a 17% decrease from 2014. As a percent of the total number of fatal accidents, firearm accidents rank very low; just 0.3% of all fatal accidents involved a firearm.
- In a tacit admission that criminals and scofflaws have had little trouble circumventing Australia’s National Firearms Agreement (NFA) and the government’s confiscation effort, Australian officials held another firearms amnesty program. The program began in July and lasted for three months. Despite offering no compensation for surrendered firearms, government officials hoped that the plan would net 260,000 of an estimated 600,000 illegally possessed guns.
- The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Neil M. Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch’s nomination was heavily backed by the NRA, due to the pro-Second Amendment views expressed in his judicial writings and his originalist approach to jurisprudence. History will record that the balance of power on the Supreme Court was in fact a key issue in the 2016 presidential election, and that Obama’s hand-picked successor, Hillary Clinton, suffered a crushing defeat after emphasizing her own view that the Heller decision had been “wrong on the Second Amendment.”
- For the first time since President Reagan spoke at the NRA Annual Meeting in 1983, a sitting president addressed NRA members during the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum. Donald Trump ran as the most pro-gun presidential candidate in history, and his speech at the forum made clear his commitment to our firearm freedom has not wavered in the slightest. During his speech to the crowd of nearly 10,000, President Trump boldly proclaimed, “You came through for me and I’m going to come through for you.”
- News broke that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) had reconsidered and “clarified” its Jan. 6, 2015, Open Letter on the use of stabilizing braces as shoulder stocks. As we explained at the time, the BATFE took the position in that letter that merely affixing the stabilizing brace to a pistol did not constitute the “making” of a National Firearms Act (NFA) firearm. Firing the braced pistol from the shoulder, however, was held to constitute a “redesign” of the firearm that brought it under the jurisdiction of the NFA, with all the additional regulations that classification entails. This directly contradicted earlier advice the BATFE had provided, in which the agency stated, “firing a pistol from the shoulder would not cause the pistol to be reclassified as an SBR.”
- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel met with representatives of the UCAN social service organization to make the case for further gun controls to combat the city’s violent crime. Chicago’s WLS news reported that Emanuel used the opportunity to demand enactment of “strong and sensible” legislation targeting firearm dealers, while lambasting federal gun laws as weak. However, a sentence handed down in a straw purchasing case bolsters the argument that the city’s violent crime problem is a result of weak and inconsistent enforcement of existing law rather than a need for more gun control.
- Information collected by the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) indicated an unprecedented surge in the number of concealed carry permits, with the largest one-year increase on record occurring between May 2016 and May 2017. The CPRC tracks permit numbers across the country and publishes an annual report on concealed carrying in the United States. As of late last year, the number of Americans with carry permits hit the 15 million mark, and the current estimate of permittees is at 15.7 million – almost double the number from 2011.
- Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources Rob Bishop (R-UT) introduced H.R. 2620, the “Lawful Purpose and Self Defense Act.” This bill would remove ATF’s authority to use the “sporting purposes” clause in federal law in ways that could undermine the core purpose of the Second Amendment. Under Chairman Bishop’s legislation, all lawful purposes – including self-defense – would have to be given due consideration and respect in the administration of federal firearm law.
- The Supreme Court of North Dakota confirmed that simply possessing a handgun while on one’s own private property cannot support a finding of “disorderly conduct” under the state’s disorderly conduct restraining order law. The decision is Keller v. Keller, 2017 ND 119 (N.D. May 16, 2017).
- The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that effectively let stand California’s “may-issue” permitting regime, resulting in law-abiding Californians in many areas of the state effectively being denied the right to “bear” arms in public for self-defense. But there was a silver lining to this development, as Justice Neil M. Gorsuch – President Trump’s pick to replace the late Antonin Scalia – came out strongly in favor of the Second Amendment by joining a dissent from the court’s decision penned by Second Amendment stalwart Justice Clarence Thomas. Gorsuch’s participation in the dissent confirmed that he, unlike so many of his colleagues in the federal judiciary, is indeed prepared to take the Second Amendment seriously.
- The Supreme Court of New Jersey upheld the right to lawfully possess and hold a weapon for self-defense in the home, rejecting arguments advanced by the State that would treat a citizen like a criminal for simply answering an angry knock at his own door while holding an object that was legal to possess. In the case, Montalvo v. State, the court clarified that possession of a lawful weapon in one’s home could not form the basis of a conviction under Section 2C:39-5(d); that a person may possess, in the home, objects that serve multiple lawful purposes, including the purpose of anticipatory self-defense; and that a person who responds to the door of his home with a concealed weapon that threatens no one acts within the bounds of the law.
- Second Amendment advocates cheered a federal court’s opinion blocking enforcement of California’s draconian magazine ban. That opinion, in Duncan v. Becerra, shows what’s possible when a federal judge treats the right to keep and bear arms with the respect deserved by all provisions within the Bill of Rights. As Judge Roger T. Benitez put it in his order, “On July 1, 2017, any previously law-abiding person in California who still possesses a firearm magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds will begin their new life of crime.” Thanks to the injunction issued by Judge Benitez, that is no longer the case. His order prevents enforcement of the ban on possession and the requirement that those in possession rid themselves of their magazines, pending further proceedings in the case.
- In a major development in the ongoing effort to restore the Second Amendment in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an opinion that would effectively require D.C. officials to make concealed carry licenses available on a “shall-issue” basis. The court’s decision comes in the combined cases of Wrenn v. D.C. and Grace v. D.C. Following the landmark case of District of Columbia v. Heller, which recognized a Second Amendment right to have operable handguns in the home for self-defense, the District retaliated by banning carrying of firearms outside the home.
- This year’s Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill helps undo the damage inflicted on the right to keep and bear arms under the Obama administration and which Obama loyalists remaining in government are only too happy to continue. One of the most significant provisions bans the use of funds for the program launched under the Obama administration to require federally licensed firearm dealers in Southwestern Border States to report certain rifle sales to the U.S. government. Implementation of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty is also effectively blocked under the bill. Under the language, any shotgun that was importable before the release of ATF’s 2011 shotgun importability “study” could not be reclassified as “non-sporting” and therefore banned from importation.
- A federal judge in Austin, Texas, dismissed a lawsuit by several professors who sought to block the University of Texas from implementing a state law that provides for the lawful carrying of concealed handguns on campus. The judge stated that the professors’ “subjective fear” that an unnamed, unknown student would be moved to future violence because of a differing opinion was based on “mere conjecture.” The judge accordingly ruled that the plaintiffs had not articulated enough of an injury for the court to have standing to hear the case. Stripped of its legal jargon, the ruling basically states that the professors’ own biases against lawful concealed carriers does not constitute a legally addressable injury.
- The Czech Republic made good on their promise to pursue a legal challenge to the European Union’s (EU) onerous new changes to the European Firearms Directive. The Central European nation filed suit in the European Court of Justice, demanding that the new gun controls be scrapped, postponed, or that certain countries be given exemptions from the measure. The centerpiece of the changes is a severe restriction on the civilian ownership of certain types of semiautomatic firearms.
- The Department of Justice made clear that the Obama Administration’s underhanded attack on the gun industry using the banking system – better known as Operation Choke Point – is over. In a strongly-worded letter to U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) dated August 16, Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd assured the chairman that the operation has been terminated and that “it will not be undertaken again.”
- The Arizona Supreme Court unanimously held that the state was within its authority to prohibit cities and counties from routinely destroying firearms obtained through forfeiture or as unclaimed property. State law holds that political subdivisions must instead (subject to certain exceptions) recirculate the firearms through legitimate channels of commerce, just as they do with other types of valuable property.
- The NRA-ILA commends the House Committee on Natural Resources for markup and passage of H.R. 3668, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act. This year’s version of the SHARE Act is the most expansive and far-reaching yet. Besides previously-introduced provisions aimed at enhancing opportunities for hunting, fishing, and shooting and broadening access to federal lands for these purposes, this year’s SHARE Act contains reforms that would widely benefit sportsmen and the gun-owning public at large. Under the successful leadership of Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA), the SHARE Act now moves to the full U.S. House of Representatives.
- In the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp issued an order for the National Guard to seize residents’ lawfully-owned firearms and ammunition, ostensibly as a means of promoting public order and protecting life and property during Hurricane Irma. The order states in no uncertain terms that the Adjutant General of the U.S. Virgin Islands National Guard is “authorized and directed to seize arms, ammunition, explosives, incendiary material and any other property” deemed necessary to the mission of maintaining or restoring order during the storm. The NRA quickly condemned Gov. Mapp’s order and pledged to take any necessary legal action to ensure that the people of the USVI were not deprived of their constitutionally protected arms when they might need them the most. Barely 24 hours later, Gov. Mapp appeared before a national audience on the Tucker Carlson Show and furiously backpedaled, bizarrely claiming that the order simply meant that Guard units could purchase necessary emergency supplies at retail without the formalities of normal procurement procedures. “This is not about seizing anybody’s personal property,” he insisted.
- Texas’ Campus Carry law went into effect on August 1, 2016. The University of Texas at Austin was a hotbed of opposition to the law, but an article in the Austin American Statesman reported that the new policy has posed “no problems so far at UT-Austin.” Recalling the gun control fanaticism at UT, the article elaborated, “Opponents of Senate Bill 11 feared there would be a rise in gun-related violence at the campus. But as the one-year anniversary approaches, those concerns have been unfounded.”
- It was announced that hedge fund billionaire and radical left-wing activist George Soros had infused his Open Society Foundations with a gift of $18 billion. According to a New York Times report, Soros funneled the money to the organization over the course of several years. The paper also called the gift, “one of the largest transfers of wealth ever made by a private donor to a single foundation,” and pointed out that Open Society is now the second largest “philanthropic” organization in the U.S. The organization has routinely targeted Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Further, the group’s global reach has imperiled gun owners throughout the world.
- The New York Times published an article titled, “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades.” The piece detailed allegations that the mogul used his position of influence to make unwanted sexual advances towards young women in the movie industry, including movie star Ashley Judd. That same day, Weinstein issued a statement that addressed the Times’s story and attempted to excuse some of his behavior. Oddly, following a series of tepid apologies and justifications, the statement turned to NRA. The beginning of the final paragraph of Weinstein’s statement read:“I am going to need a place to channel that anger, so I’ve decided that I’m going to give the NRA my full attention. I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party. I’m going to do it at the same place I had my Bar Mitzvah.”
- The San Francisco 49ers followed in the footsteps of recently disgraced Hollywood media mogul Harvey Weinstein by targeting the Second Amendment and advocating for gun control legislation in order to change the narrative and deflect attention from the team’s substantial problems. The 49ers announced that the team is pledging $500,000 towards a campaign “which will advocate for legislation banning ‘bump stocks’ and other mechanisms that allow semi-automatic weapons to become automatic weapons, as well as silencers and armor piercing bullets.”
- Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced S. 2095, which she is calling the Assault Weapons Ban of 2017. The 125-page firearm prohibition fever dream is perhaps the most far-reaching gun ban ever introduced in Congress. Subject to an exception for “grandfathered” firearms, the bill would prohibit AR-15s and dozens of other semi-automatic rifles by name (as well as their “variants” or “altered facsimiles”), and any semi-automatic rifle that could accept a detachable magazine and be equipped with a pistol grip, an adjustable or detachable stock, or a barrel shroud. And that’s just a partial list. “Pistol grip” would be defined as “a grip, a thumbhole stock, or any other characteristic that can function as a grip,” meaning the ban could implicate even traditional stocks or grips specifically designed to comply with existing state “assault weapon” laws. Needless to say, semi-automatic shotguns and handguns would get similar treatment. Also banned would be any magazine with a capacity of greater than 10 rounds or even any magazine that could be “readily restored, changed, or converted to accept” more than 10 rounds.
- In early October, after unsuccessfully applying for a rehearing of Wrenn v. D.C. and Grace v. D.C., the District announced that it had decided against an appeal of the decision, which means that applicants for concealed carry licenses in the Nation’s capital are no longer hindered by this capricious and obstructive requirement. A year ago, October and November each showed only a single National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check done in relation to permits in D.C., as was the case again in September of 2017. This October, however, 145 District residents have had permit-based NICS checks. It is unclear how many of these, if any, concern previous applicants who were denied because of “good reason” and who may now reapply, but the October 2017 NICS figure, by itself, comes very close to the total for permit-based checks in D.C. over the rest of 2017 combined.
- Anti-gun advocates like Gun Control Network Chair Gillian Marshall-Andrews tout the United Kingdom’s longstanding firearms restrictions, which include a near total ban on handguns, as the “gold standard” of gun control. According to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) statistical bulletin “Crime in England and Wales,” firearm crimes in England and Wales were up 27-percent for the year ending in June 2017. The bulletin noted, “The latest rise continues an upward trend seen in firearms offences in the last few years.”
- In a resounding show of support for the Second Amendment, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a legislative package that included H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, and H.R. 4477, the Fix NICS Act of 2017. The bipartisan vote of 231 to 198 advanced a measure that would allow law-abiding Americans who are eligible to carry a concealed handgun under the law of a state to do so in all other U.S. states and territories that recognize the right of their own residents to carry concealed. Without a doubt, this is the strongest piece of self-defense legislation to ever come before Congress.
- The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, gained support from a coalition of America’s highest-ranking law enforcement officers. Twenty-four attorneys general from across the country signed a letter spearheaded by Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley supporting this common sense legislation. “America’s highest-ranking law enforcement officers understand that law-abiding citizens should be able to exercise their fundamental right to self-defense while traveling across state lines without fear of unknowingly breaking the law. The NRA applauds these attorneys general for supporting this important legislation,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director, NRA-ILA.
- For the third consecutive year – and this time without the looming threat of anti-gun politicians in power, background checks on Black Friday broke the previous record. The FBI reported 203,086 background checks were run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This beat the previous single day record by more than seventeen thousand checks. The two-previous single-day records were Black Friday 2016 (185,713 checks) and Black Friday 2015 (185,345).
Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.