Tags: local | gun | control | laws

State, Local Lawmakers Rush to Enact Gun Laws Ahead of Federal Controls

Saturday, 09 Mar 2013 11:06 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald and Matthew Auerbach

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Image: State, Local Lawmakers Rush to Enact Gun Laws Ahead of Federal Controls
Gun rights protesters march in Salt Lake City. (Getty Images)
The battle over gun control is playing out across the nation as well as in Washington D.C., with towns and states considering gun laws they say will protect their residents' rights to bear firearms at a time when many fear the federal government will enforce weapons bans.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence reports more than 1,100 gun-related bills have been introduced in recent months on the state level.

Several communities also are considering ordinances to make gun ownership mandatory, reports Fox News, while others recommend keeping firearms but don't go so far as to require gun ownership.

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A town of 140 people in western Maine is another in the list of communities from Idaho to Georgia who decided to require or recommend their residents own a gun.

But while residents of Byron, Maine, and their selectmen favor the legislation, Maine prohibits, through a 2011 state law, municipalities from adopting firearm regulations.

Supporters in Nelson, Ga., a town of 1,300 located about 50 miles north of Atlanta, say they want a gun requirement law because light police patrols leave city residents virtually unprotected.

The proposal there carries exemptions for people who object because of personal beliefs, religious reasons or mental disability, and Mayor Pro Tem Jonathan Bishop said convicted felons will also be exempted.

Kennesaw, Ga., has had a mandatory gun law since 1982, and Police Lt. Craig Graydon said the law has worked to keep crime staying low, even though the ordinance is “unenforceable,” and the town has never tried to enforce it.

The new gun laws are also extending to schools in the wake of the Dec. 14 shootings in Newtown, Conn., reports On Friday, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a law giving school boards the ability to allow teachers to carry guns in the classroom.

According to the New York Times, South Dakota is now “believed to be the first state to pass a law that specifically allows teachers to carry firearms.”

The new law specifies that a school district must “obtain the approval of the law enforcement official who has jurisdiction over the school premises” before creating a sentinel program.

On the national level, lawmakers are struggling to advance some of the bills that have been introduced in Congress following the Newtown shootings.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday for a gun trafficking bill that makes so-called "straw" purchases -- or buying a gun for someone who can't legally purchase one -- illegal. The bill was sponsored by committee Chairman Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley was the lone Republican to vote for the bill.

Three other bills, calling for an assault weapons ban, enhanced school safety, and a background check bill, remain in committee. The ban on assault weapons may have difficulty passing the Senate, and the background check legislation is in trouble after Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma backed out of talks with bill sponsor Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.

On Thursday, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein opposed an amendment to her assault weapons ban seeking to allow military veterans to continue buying the banned firearms. The Democrat noted a veteran may be mentally ill or suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. In addition, she said, it's not clear how the seller of an assault weapon would be able to verify whether or not the veteran was mentally ill.

While some towns and states are considering laws encouraging guns, the Colorado Senate on Friday considered legislation including background checks, banning high-capacity magazines, and permitting the prosecution of gun sellers and manufacturers whose firearms are used in the commission of violent crimes.

Another bill, though, to ban concealed weapons on college campuses, failed before making it to the floor.

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