We’re spending the last Bearing Arms Cam & Co of the year looking (mostly) ahead, with The Reload’s Stephen Gutowski joining today’s show to talk about the challenges and opportunities for Second Amendment defenders in the year to come.
We won’t have to wait long for the first big tests of 2024. With the new year comes new gun control laws in some states, and 2A groups have already launched challenges to California’s SB 2, which is set to take effect on Monday. The legislation creates a number of new “gun-free zones” in the state. While U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney has granted an injunction against enforcement of the “sensitive places” challenged in May v. Bonta and Carraleo v. Bonta, the state has already appealed his decision. We’re likely to see an emergency order come down from the Ninth Circuit ahead of the effective date or shortly after. The California Rifle & Pistol Association, along with other Second Amendment organizations including GOA and SAF, have also sued over the new licensing requirements that are included in SB 2, and we’ll hopefully have a hearing set for their request for an injunction early in the new year.
The New Mexico legislature, meanwhile, will be the setting for the first gun ban debate of 2024 when lawmakers return to Santa Fe on January 16th for a 30-day session. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is pushing the Democratic majority to adopt a state-level version of the GOSAFE Act, which would ban the manufacture and sale of almost every center-fire semi-automatic rifle on the market; allowing only those with a fixed magazine that can hold no more than ten rounds from being sold in the state going forward. Grisham was unable to convince her fellow Democrats to approve a similar ban on so-called assault weapons this past session and her attempt to impose a 14-day waiting period on all gun sales also died an ignominious death in the Roundhouse in 2023, but she’s making a gun ban one of her top priorities for next year.
While states from California to Massachusetts will be testing how far they can infringe on the right to keep and bear arms before the federal judiciary shuts them down, gun owners won’t entirely be playing defense in 2024. The election of Republican Jeff Landry as Louisiana’s next governor should clear the way for passage of permitless carry, and gun owners will be pushing for North Carolina and South Carolina to do the same. Republicans have a veto-proof majority in North Carolina and a trifecta in South Carolina, where they control both chambers of the legislature as well as the governor’s office, but permitless carry struggled to find traction in both states last year. North Carolina lawmakers ended up rejecting a permitless carry bill amidst disputes about training requirements, while the South Carolina state Senate failed to take up a permitless carry bill that received overwhelming approval in the state House. Still, there’s some reason for optimism this year, given that most Republican lawmakers in those states will want to have some 2A successes they can point to in their re-election bids.
Gun control is also likely to play a major role in Joe Biden’s 2024 campaign. Biden has called for a ban on so-called assault weapons on a regular basis, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be leaning into anti-gun initiatives as a way to drum up support among his base ahead of Election Day, even though Gutowski notes that several recent polls have shown an increase in gun ownership among self-identified Democrats. There’s no real prospect of any new anti-gun legislation getting to Biden’s desk before Election Day, but the administration will be defending his executive actions on stabilizing braces and unfinished frames and receivers in court, and likely the pending ATF rule on who’s “engaged in the business” of selling firearms as well. There’s a distinct possibility of even more anti-2A executive actions coming from the White House in the new year, including new limitations on firearm exports.
This is just a brief overview of some of the issues we hit during today’s show, so I’d encourage you to check out the entire conversation with Gutowski in the video window below, as well as becoming a subscriber to The Reload to keep up to date with all of his reporting in the very busy year ahead.