Blue states are pursuing new gun control measures in the wake of a Supreme Court decision this year that upended the way courts may look at gun laws in the future.
In New Jersey, lawmakers in the state are advancing a bill that would severely restrict where lawful gun owners could carry their firearms with a permit that, under the new law, would cost significantly more money to obtain.
In Illinois, lawmakers on Monday debated a proposal that would ban assault-style weapons, outlaw higher capacity magazines, and raise the minimum age for gun ownership from 18 to 21 years old.
And in Oregon, state officials are fighting to implement a measure approved last month by voters that would place additional requirements on residents looking to purchase a gun.
The changes come as states adjust to new limits on gun restrictions in the aftermath of the June Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.
A majority of justices ruled in the Bruen case that New York’s concealed carry permitting system was unconstitutional because it forced applicants to demonstrate that they had “proper cause” — beyond just a desire to carry their legally owned firearms — to deserve a permit.
Writing for the majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas noted that he knew of “no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need.”
That left some states, such as New Jersey, concerned that their existing laws may suffer the same fate as New York’s and spurred lawmakers to consider other ways to sidestep the framework established in the case.
“They know they’re getting laws struck down, so they’re trying to pass laws to get around it, and their problem is, all these laws they’re passing are more restrictive,” Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, told the Washington Examiner.
Gottlieb said his organization is involved in two of five lawsuits currently concerning the controversial Oregon gun law, known as Measure 114, which passed on the ballot in the midterm elections.
Perhaps Measure 114’s most controversial element is its permitting structure. Oregon residents will have to complete extensive training courses that, according to the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association, don’t currently exist in one program.
Local police departments will be responsible for approving or denying permit applications after implementation of the law, which was set to take effect on Thursday but which a judge put on hold.
“Right there, that becomes an issue of discretion, and the Supreme Court in Bruen clearly said you cannot have discretion in issuing permits. You cannot do that,” Erich Pratt, senior vice president of Gun Owners of America, told the Washington Examiner. “That’s why we think, ultimately, they will not be successful.”
New York lawmakers quickly changed their gun laws after the Supreme Court’s June decision but found their new rules just as controversial in the courts.
The state replaced its “proper cause” standard with a “good moral character” standard for permitting that, among other things, required applicants to hand over their social media handles so state officials could examine their online conduct.
The new law also established a number of places as “sensitive” areas where even permitted gun owners cannot carry their guns concealed, including churches and Times Square.
Critics of the law say New York continued to impose a subjective test on gun owners and continued to trample their right to carry a gun outside their home, two things the Supreme Court expressly rejected in Bruen.
Gun rights advocates have challenged the new law.
Beyond permitting, some blue states are taking aim at types of firearms or sizes of magazines in ways that they hope won’t run afoul of the Supreme Court.
Pennsylvania Democrats are pushing a measure that would stop the sale of firearms that can accept more than 15 rounds of bullets or five shotgun shells, for example, with the proposal’s supporters citing the use of high-capacity guns in mass shootings.
In Connecticut, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont has proposed going after AR-15 rifles that were grandfathered in under a 2013 law that banned the sale of new AR-15s in the state.