As the Republican Senate Blocks Reform, States Pass Their Own Gun-Control Laws

Gun-reform advocates line Pennsylvania Avenue while attending the March for Our Lives rally on March 24th, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

If you count yourself among the 97 percent of Americans who support universal background checks for all gun buyers, 2019 might have been the year that some of your “thoughts and prayers” were finally answered: In March, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill requiring background checks on all gun sales, and just one month earlier, in February, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak signed a similar proposal into law.

Both bills are part of a broad slate of gun-sense legislation that statehouses across the United States managed to pass in 2019, giving gun-control activists cause to celebrate even as Congress has struggled to bypass a Republican-controlled Senate to advance gun-safety laws at the federal level.

In addition to Nevada’s background check law, Sisolak also signed legislation on Friday establishing an extreme risk law in the state, which will mandate the responsible storage of firearms and prohibit the sale and possession of bump stocks. Earlier this year, New York, Colorado, and the District of Columbia all enacted red flag laws—which are aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of individuals who pose an imminent threat to themselves or others—bringing the total number of states to adopt the policy up to 15. And in addition to the 16 states that rejected bills that would have armed teachers and repealed gun-free school zones in K-12 schools, 11 states rejected bills that would have forced colleges and universities to allow guns on campus, and three new states—Arkansas, Minnesota, and North Dakota—rejected so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws, which critics argue contribute to an uptick in vigilantism.

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