Measures to limit the sale and possession of firearms and ammunition will be on the ballot in several states this fall. Advocates for stricter gun control measures are turning their focus on appealing directly to voters in individual states as they have found their efforts stymied in Congress.
Polls show support for stricter gun control laws
According to several polls, Americans favor stricter gun control laws for certain types of weapons, but strongly oppose any outright ban on the right to own guns. A CNN/ORC poll done in June 2016 showed that 55% of the public favored ‘stricter gun control laws,’ while 42% are opposed. More than 90% felt that background checks should be required to make sure felons couldn’t purchase a gun. Questions related to banning semi-automatic assault type weapons or high capacity magazines were favored but by lesser margins.
2016 will be the year of gun sense. If elected leaders themselves won’t change the laws that make it too easy for dangerous people to get weapons, the American people will change them themselves. — Kate Folmar, Everytown for Gun Safety
NRA opposed to restrictions
The National Rifle Association (NRA) is the most powerful pro-gun lobby in the country. Their argument against banning any gun is that assault-style weapons, such as the AR-15, have not been shown to be involved in “more than a modest fraction of gun murders.” They argue that magazines that hold more than ten rounds are standard for many of the handguns and rifles that Americans keep for self-defense.
After decades of legislative and electoral defeat, the gun control lobby has resorted to buying gun control by spending [Michael] Bloomberg's billions to impose his New York style gun-control through the ballot initiative process. — Jennifer Baker, NRA spokeswoman.
California would ban high capacity magazines
In California, Proposition 63 proposes prohibiting the possession of large-capacity magazines and would require some individuals to pass a background check to purchase ammunition. Proponents argue that it would make it harder for felons and other dangerous persons to have access to high capacity firearms.
Opponents argue that it would be unfair to law-abiding gun owners and would do nothing to keep “terrorists and violent criminals” from having access to firearms and ammunition.
Polls show that voters are favoring passing the measure by a margin of 67% to 25%.
Keep mentally ill away from guns
Washington state Initiative 1491 would authorize the courts to issue an order prohibiting certain high-risk persons from having possession of firearms.
This proposal would permit a court to ban certain individuals felt to be a danger to themselves or others from possessing a firearm for a period of one year, which could be renewed. The intent is to address the issue of persons who are not felons but are exhibiting signs of mental illness or violent behavior from having access to a firearm. The court order could be sought by police or family members. The measure has not attracted much opposition, although the NRA is on record as opposing it. Polls show the initiative passing by a margin of 70% to 18%.
Private party gun sales
In Maine, Question 3 on the ballot asks voters to approve a law that would require background checks on sales and transactions between private parties for the sale of firearms. A mid-September poll showed voters supporting the question by a margin of 61% to 33% opposed.
Nevada has a similar measure on its ballot which is titled Question 1. The proposed law would require that all gun sales go through a licensed gun dealer, although transfers between family members would be exempt. A recent Suffolk University poll showed the measure being approved by voters in The Silver State by a margin of 66% to 25%.
It is reasonable to assume that if these ballot measures pass, gun control advocates will increasingly look to making direct appeals to state voters to get tougher gun control measures enacted into law.