“Laura Ann Carleton, 66, a California business owner, was shot and killed last weekend after a gunman tore down an LGBTQ Pride flag hanging outside her store and shouted homophobic slurs. Since then, law enforcement has revealed that the gunman — who was killed in an encounter with police — also posted numerous anti-LGBTQ posts on social media accounts they believe are affiliated with him.”
“One of the most common types of new laws this year are those that allow handgun owners to carry a concealed gun without a permit. Florida, Nebraska and South Carolina have passed such laws, joining 23 other states that have passed permitless concealed carry since 2010. North Carolina advanced a similar law that was shelved earlier this month, but the state legislature did repeal a law that required a permit to buy a handgun, overriding the Democratic governor’s veto.
Other states have considered expanding the areas in which concealed weapons can be carried. In Mississippi, the state Board of Education implemented a policy last year to comply with a decade-old law that allowed guns in K-12 schools. In West Virginia, guns are now allowed on public college and university campuses, a similar law to one Tennessee considered. The Iowa state House passed a bill allowing legal gun owners to keep a weapon in their car on public grounds and decriminalized the carry of concealed weapons for certain people, like those deemed a danger to themselves or others. The Missouri House advanced a law allowing guns in places of worship and on public transportation.
Many of these gun-rights expansions are also geared toward schools. After the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers, the Republican Party promoted arming teachers as a way to increase school safety, and states have since begun passing laws allowing it. Last year, Ohio passed a law allowing teachers to be armed after 24 hours of training (down from 700 hours); this year, Mississippi passed a bill that would create a program to arm teachers, and Oklahoma has considered one similar to Ohio’s, though its legislative session is almost over. Texas’s legislature is considering a law that would offer a stipend to armed teachers, and Indiana has passed a bill allowing state-funded handgun training for teachers.”
“We don’t know much about the effects most of these specific laws will have, because longstanding roadblocks on gun-related research mean we don’t know a lot about what kinds of gun laws prevent shootings, especially mass shootings. More than 20 years of research has found that increased availability of guns is associated with higher rates of homicide, and a 2014 study in the Journal of Urban Health found that a repeal of Missouri’s permit requirement for handgun purchases contributed to a 25 percent increase in firearm homicide rates in the five years that followed.”
“many states are working to prevent the kind of data collection that would tell us more about the relationship between guns and gun violence. The federal government doesn’t track gun purchases. To fill in the gaps in that data, the gun-safety advocacy community has tried to work with credit-card companies to track gun purchases, according to Holihan. But Arkansas, Florida, Montana and Utah are among the states that have passed new legislation preventing “discrimination” against gun manufacturers in an effort to stop that practice before it starts, and credit-card companies have backed away from it. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has also banned state agencies from working with banks that track gun purchases.”
“Yet the perpetrator, who was killed by a police officer at the scene, had been licensed as an armed security guard, which means he passed a background check and was legally allowed to own firearms.
In that respect, the killer was typical of people who commit crimes like this. That is the main reason why expanded background checks cannot reasonably be expected to have much of an impact on mass shootings, contrary to the impression left by politicians who reflexively recommend that solution.
Federal law disqualifies broad categories of Americans from owning firearms, including people who have been convicted of felonies or subjected to court-ordered psychiatric treatment. Background checks are required for all gun sales by federally licensed dealers, and some states extend that requirement to transfers by private sellers.
As several news outlets noted after the Allen attack, Texas is not one of those states. But that detail does not seem relevant in this case: Although the killer bought some guns from private sellers, CNN reported, the rifle he used in the attack was “purchased legally,” meaning he was not a “prohibited person” under federal law.”
“In 2020, gun violence surpassed traffic accidents, cancer, suffocation, and poisoning as the leading cause of death among children and teens. That makes the US exceptional: In no other wealthy or similarly sized country is gun violence one of the top four causes of death among children and teens, let alone the leading one, according to a 2022 analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That analysis also showed that the US accounts for 97 percent of all child and teen firearm deaths among its peer countries.
Most of those US deaths are caused by assault, with 3.6 children and teens per 100,000 dying on that account in 2020. By comparison, 1.7 and 0.3 per 100,000 children and teens died from firearm suicide and unintentional or undetermined firearm-related causes, respectively.
Children and teens in the US also experience ongoing secondary effects from gun violence, even if they are not injured in a shooting. Researchers at Penn Medicine found in a 2021 study of more than 2,600 shootings that there was a significant spike in emergency department visits for mental health issues among children after neighborhood shootings, with the most acute effects observed among children living closest to the site of the shooting and those who have witnessed multiple shootings.”
“54 percent of the approximately 77 million gun owners in the US do not practice safe gun storage, according to a 2018 Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health survey. And one-third of these households with dangerously stored guns are also home to children.
This is a fact that should alarm us. In 2020, firearms surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of death for American children, with 4,357 children killed by gunfire that year. While the majority of child deaths from guns are due to homicide, an average of 35 percent between 2018 and 2021 were suicides, while 5 percent were caused by unintentional, accidental shootings.”
“The distinguishing feature of “stand your ground” laws is that they eliminate the duty to retreat for people confronted by threats of violence in public places. The shooting of Ralph Yarl did not happen in a public place; it happened on the doorstep of the man who shot him. The shooting of Kaylin Gillis likewise happened on the property of the man who killed her. New York, in any event, is not one of the 28 states with “stand your ground” laws. And as Reason’s J.D. Tuccille notes, the Texas cheerleaders, Payton Washington and Heather Roth, “were chased by their assailants, which isn’t self-defense by any understanding.”
So why does NPR suggest that any of these defendants might successfully invoke a “stand your ground” defense? You got me.
A recent New York Times article that begins by citing the shootings in Missouri and New York is equally hazy on the relevance of “stand your ground” laws. Reporter Adeel Hassan compounds the confusion by mentioning a Florida jury’s 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, who was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter after he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman argued that he reasonably feared for his life when Martin pinned him to the ground, punched him, and smacked his head against the pavement. That account was supported by physical evidence and witness testimony. Given those circumstances, the absence of a duty to retreat did not figure in Zimmerman’s defense or in the verdict.
Politico reporter Brakkton Booker nevertheless asserts that Florida’s “stand your ground” law was “central” to Zimmerman’s trial. Booker also thinks the shooting of Ralph Yarl “has all the ingredients to revive the national debate over ‘stand your ground’ laws,” although he never explains why.
Hassan at least correctly distinguishes between “the common-law ‘castle doctrine'” and “stand your ground” laws. The castle doctrine says people have no duty to retreat when they are confronted by intruders in their own homes. “Stand your ground” laws, Hassan notes, “go further” because they “apply anyplace where a person has a legal right to be, not just at home.” He cites Florida’s law as an example.”
“Texas has a similar law. It allows someone to use deadly force when he “reasonably believes” it is “immediately necessary” to protect himself against the “use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force.” It adds that “a person who has a right to be present at the location where the force is used, who has not provoked the person against whom the force is used, and who is not engaged in criminal activity at the time the force is used is not required to retreat before using force as described by this section.””
“Homicide defendants do sometimes invoke the absence of a duty to retreat in public places, although often implausibly and unsuccessfully, and there is a legitimate debate about whether that extension of self-defense law is fair and prudent. But that debate is muddied whenever news outlets bring up the controversy in contexts where it is plainly irrelevant.”
“The executive order represents incremental progress in a state with some of the laxest gun laws in the country, and comes just as two lawmakers previously expelled from the state legislature for participating in a gun control protest return to their posts.
It requires that new criminal history information and court mental health information be reported within 72 hours for purposes of including it in the state’s background check system. It also directs the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to evaluate how its background check system can be improved.
But it still leaves gaping holes in a background check system. It also wouldn’t have stopped the Nashville shooter, who bought their guns legally from five different local gun stores and had no history of contact with law enforcement or commitment to an institution that would have been flagged on a background check.
The governor has separately called for the state legislature to pass a red flag law, also known as an extreme risk protection law, under which individuals believed to pose a danger to themselves or others can be barred from possessing firearms. But it’s not clear that there is the political will to do so among Republicans in the state, who have in recent years removed permit requirements to carry a handgun in public and pushed legislation that would loosen restrictions on carrying guns on school campuses.”
“The new executive order doesn’t fill a major gap in Tennessee’s background check system: Current law doesn’t require background checks for private gun sales, ones where there isn’t a licensed dealer involved. Those sales can occur at gun shows or online marketplaces such as Armslist. According to an Everytown analysis of 2018 gun ads on Armslist, one in eight prospective buyers in Tennessee wouldn’t have passed a background check.
Currently, 14 states require universal background checks on all gun sales, including those that occur online.”