Guns

Gun Spree

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After the Columbine High School shootings last spring, conventional wisdom had it that there was no way to stop the U.S. Congress from passing new gun controls; the only question was how draconian the laws would be. While the drive for federal regulation remains under debate, gun owners shouldn't relax yet: Since May, three states have passed new gun restrictions and a fourth is poised to do so by year's end.

California passed both a ban on "assault weapons" and a "gun a month" law that limits handgun purchases to one every 30 days (multiple sales to individuals are now a felony). A Connecticut measure allows police to seize firearms from anyone accused of threatening "imminent personal injury" by two "credible persons" (a phrase not yet defined by the courts). And Illinois passed a law penalizing parents for having unlocked guns out at home.

New Jersey may require gun makers to sell "smart" guns that allow only their owners to fire them–even though these may not be available for years. The law, which awaits final passage by state legislators this November, will go into effect as soon as two firms bring them to market.

On the other hand, four states have taken pro-gun moves. Maine rejected a bill similar to the one passed by Illinois. Officials in Louisiana and Texas took action to stop product liability lawsuits against gun makers (blocking a suit against manufacturers filed last October by New Orleans). Texas also rejected a bill requiring background checks at gun shows. And Nevada approved a measure allowing concealed weapons to be carried in public buildings, except airports and schools.