[F]ive states have passed seven laws strengthening gun laws this year, while ten states passed seventeen laws that weaken restrictions. The gun-control laws tend to be more significant, such as New York's assault weapons ban, while the legislation involving gun rights involves smaller changes like South Dakota allowing teachers to bring guns into the classroom. However, the Washington Post notes that the numbers reflect the effectiveness of gun rights groups in states across the nation. Pro-gun control organizations tend to be more focused on federal laws, and spent only $55,000 on state-level legislation between 2007 and 2012, according to the Sunlight Foundation. In the same period, pro-gun groups including the NRA spent $2.3 million on efforts to block state restrictions on guns. [...]In that financial statistic can be seen one of the reasons that chortling over the NRA's spending of millions on federal candidates almost all of whom lost in 2012 should be kept at low decibels. Because a good portion of the organization's impact over the past 35 years has been at the state level, although it has, of course, hamstrung federal legislation previously and seems perfectly poised to do so again. This despite nationwide polls repeatedly showing that the majority of Americans support universal background checks, limits on gun magazine capacity and a ban on semi-automatic military-style assault weapons.
This year at least 36 states have introduced legislation to nullify federal restrictions on gun rights (supremacy clause be damned).
The four states that have gotten most of the attention for new restrictions that have already cleared the governors' desks or are soon expected to do so are New York, Colorado and, most recently, Connecticut and Maryland. Two of those states were the scene of mass shootings—Columbine and Aurora in Colorado, and Sandy Hook in Connecticut, the most horrific of the lot since 20 of the 27 victims there were first-graders. Here's what each of those new state laws do:
Connecticut: Some state legislators burst into tears when family members of the victims at Sandy Hook elementary school met with them earlier this week and showed photos of their children. But the die was cast long before then, and the provisions of the bipartisan bill that passed both houses of the legislature are exactly what the gun lobby and gun-rights advocates oppose: background checks for all gun sales; eligibility certificates mandated for purchase of any rifle or shotgun and for ammunition; a tougher version of the state's existing assault weapons ban that adds more gun models by name and continues the requirement that existing owners must register with the state; a ban on the sale or purchase of gun magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds each and a requirement that existing larger-capacity magazines be registered and not loaded with more than 10 rounds outside a residence; a requirement that people convicted of some 40 gun crimes register with the state for five years after their release. The legislation also sets school safety standards and establishes a task force on mental health.
Maryland: The state's House of Delegates passed a bill Wednesday mandating: a ban on assault weapons; a limit on the capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds; fingerprinting of all gun buyers, which Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey already do; a requirement that all gun buyers get classroom training; restrictions on gun buys by mentally ill people. The state senate has already passed a similar bill and the two bodies don't have far to go to reconcile the two versions.
Colorado: With votes strictly on party lines, lawmakers passed bills mandating: universal background checks on private sales of firearms including those at gun shows paid for by a fee on buyers; a limit on the capacity of ammunition magazines to 15 rounds; required reporting to the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System of information about dangerously mentally ill people.
New York: The Empire State was first out of the box with strict measures after the 12/14 slayings at the Sandy Hook school. Lawmakers approved a bill that: tightens an existing ban on assault weapons by designating weapons as such if they have only one characteristic instead of the previously required two—such as a pistol grip or folding stock; sets up a gun registry of all assault weapons; sets up a gun registry for all private sales and requires a background check for them; requires background checks for ammunition buyers; limits the capacity of ammunition magazines to seven rounds and require existing owners to sell them out of state within a year; establishes a statewide firearms licensing standard; requires pistol permit holders and those who will have assault weapons permits to be recertified every five years.
Other states, notably California (which already has some of the strictest laws in the nation), are also considering tougher laws. But many states are pushing the gun-rights agenda. In Arkansas, for instance, a bill is working its way through the legislature to allow guns in bars and liquor stores. In Utah, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed a bill that would have allowed anyone to carry a concealed firearm without a permit, something already allowed in Vermont and Wyoming.