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Congressional Research Service Debunks “Epidemic” of Mass Public Shootings

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 Congressional Research Service Debunks “Epidemic” of Mass Public Shootings

On July 30, 2014, in the wake of several high-profile public shootings, the Congressional Research Service published a report on mass shootings. The report challenges media characterizations of the mass public shootings as an “epidemic” and instead shows no significant increase in mass shootings in the last fifteen years. Moreover, although there has been an increase in yearly incidents in the 90s, 00s, and 10s, the increase is minor compared to the increase in mass public shootings in the 70s and 80s. The report also points out that overall firearms-related murders have decreased significantly since the 1970s. From 1993 to 2013, the estimated firearms-related homicide victim rate per one hundred thousand of the population decreased from 6.62 to 3.10. The report also challenges the presumption that “assault” weapons are responsible for the large portion of these incidents. Of all mass shootings, which includes familicide and other felony-related mass shootings, an “assault weapon,” as that term is used by Congress, was involved in only 9.78% of all incidents. A copy of the report can be found here.

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Seattle City Council Adopts New Firearm Tax; Court Upholds FL Law Protecting Firearm Owners' Privacy

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Seattle City Council Adopts New Firearm Tax

On August 10, 2015 the Seattle City Council adopted two ordinances affecting firearm purchasers and owners. First, the Council unanimously approved a $25 tax on all firearms sold in the city in what it claims to be an effort to combat violent crime. The proposal also includes a 5 cent tax on each round of ammunition sold. For .22 ammunition, the tax is 2 cents per round. Funds from the tax will purportedly be used for “gun violence research and prevention programs.” The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) responded that the tax is unlikely to affect gun violence and that it may violate Washington State's firearm preemption statute. A second ordinance passed by the city council the same day requires firearm owners that are the victim of theft or burglary to report any lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours of the incident. Victims that do not comply with the reporting requirement are subject to a fine of up to $500. Both ordinances will now be sent to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s desk for approval. Summaries of the laws can be found here and here.

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NYAG Announces Settlement with Major Retailers over Sale of Imitation Firearms

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August 4, 2015; On August 3, 2015, the New York Attorney General’s office issued a press release announcing agreements with Amazon, Kmart, Sears, Walmart, and California-based ACTA for violating New York State law concerning the sale of toy or imitation firearms.  An investigation between 2012 and 2014 found that these retailers, and numerous third-party sellers operating through Amazon and Sears, violated New York law concerning the sale of “imitation firearms.” Most of these sales were made online to purchasers in New York. New York Gen. Bus. Law 872 prohibits the sale of “imitation firearms,” which are defined as any device that can “reasonably be perceived to be an actual firearm, air rifle, pellet gun, or ‘B-B’ gun” unless such device adheres to specific requirements set forth in the statute including having bright orange markings along the barrel.  The NYAG’s agreement with the retailers now requires any imitation firearm sold statewide by the retailers to adhere to the stricter, New York City regulation regarding imitation firearms. Among other things, this regulation requires imitation firearms in the city to be “white, bright red, bright orange, bright yellow, bright green, bright blue, bright pink or bright purple,” or made of transparent material that makes it clear that it is an imitation. A copy of the New York Attorney General’s press release can be found here.

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Los Angeles Bans Large-Capacity Magazines

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July 31, 2015; On Tuesday, July 28, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to ban the possession of firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. California already bans the manufacture and sale of large-capacity magazines, however possession of large capacity magazines remains legal. Los Angeles lawmakers saw this as a loophole. Once Mayor Eric Garcetti signs the bill, which is expected within the next week, Los Angeles residents have 60 days to sell, surrender, or transfer the magazines. 

Tennessee Attorney General Clarifies Law Concerning Concealed Carry in Parks

On July 29, the Tennessee Attorney General’s office issued an opinion clarifying a state law concerning carrying handguns in public parks. Tenn. Code Ann. 39-17-1311(b)(1)(H) permits handguns in public parks or recreational facilities by those with a handgun permit. Tennessee lawmakers had questioned whether this law applied to public parks and spaces such as theaters and arenas run by private, as opposed to government, organizations. 

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Tennessee Lawmaker Pushes for Repeal of Bill that Disallows Armed Military Personnel at Recruitment Stations

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July 20, 2015; In the wake of the tragic shootings at a military support center in Chattanooga, TN, Rep. Scott DesJarlias of Tennessee seeks to repeal the ban on military personnel carrying firearms at recruitment stations and on base. The proposed legislation is titled "Enhancing Safety at Military Installation Act." The ban is the result of a combination of Pentagon policy and the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which prohibits the federal government from using military personnel for domestic law enforcement. In addition to Rep. DesJarlias's proposal, at least six state governors have called for National Guardsmen in their states to be armed in wake of the Chattanooga shooting.

Maine to Allow Concealed Carry Without a Permit

Gov. Paul LePage of Maine signed a bill into law that will allows concealed carry of a pistol or handgun without a permit in Maine. Once it takes effect in October 2015, Maine joins Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Vermont and Wyoming as "constitutional carry" states that do not require permits to carry a firearm. A summary of the law can be found here.

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Small Victory for NYCAL Defendants!

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July 14, 2015; Even though the First Appellate Department unanimously affirmed in part NYS Supreme Court Sherry Klein Heitler’s Order entered on April 15, 2014 (“April Order”) that lifted the 18-year deferral on punitive damages in New York City Asbestos Litigation (“NYCAL”) actions, the First Appellate Department’s Decision also reversed and remanded a significant portion of the April Order. Therefore, the First Appellate Department’s Decision is a small victory for the NYCAL defense bar. The First Appellate Department held that a portion of the April Order that modifies punitive damages in the Case Management Order (“CMO”) violated NYCAL defendants’ due process rights. The First Appellate Department reversed the provision of the modified CMO, which granted the trial court the authority to decide if plaintiff may proceed with a punitive damage claim without affording the defendants an “opportunity to conduct discovery and establish a defense with respect to this damages claim.” 
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New York Court Orders Release of Firearm Registration Data; 3-D Firearm Designer Sues State Dept.

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May 8, 2015; Judge Thomas J. McNamara (NY Supreme – Albany County) has ruled that the New York State Police must release data regarding the registration of firearms that may qualify as “assault weapons” under the provisions of the NY SAFE Act. The case, Robinson v. Cuomo et al., was filed in 2014 by pro-firearm group Shooters Committee on Public Education (SCOPE) after the New York State Police refused to respond to FOIL requests for the information. Stephen Aldstadt, President of SCOPE, explained that the group “never asked for any personal identifying information in any of this. [They] are simply looking for the number of records and not any individual's name or particular firearm that is registered." A copy of Judge McNamara’s Order can be found here.

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