Late last week, 21 year old Hofstra University student Andrea Rebello was shot and killed during an attempted robbery in a group house near the Uniondale, New York campus.
But the initial assumption — that Rebello was murdered by the suspected robber Dalton Smith during a shoot-out with police — now appears to be wrong. Nassau County police officials confirmed over the weekend that the victim was accidentally shot and killed by a responding police officer at the scene:
The Nassau County officer, a 12-year veteran whose identity was withheld, fired eight rounds. Seven struck Smith and one hit Andrea Rebello, 21, in the head. Rebello, of Tarrytown, shared the off-campus rental home with three other Hofstra students, including her identical twin sister, Jessica.
Rebello’s tragic death underscores the absurdity and danger of the NRA’s push for more vigilantism on city streets and inside classrooms — “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” in NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre’s words. Police officers in Nassau County are subjected to a battery of weapons trainings when they join the force, and yet even a 12-year veteran can make a mistake that ends with the loss of an innocent life.
And these kinds of incidents are far from anomalies either. Last summer, police officers in New York City opened fire on a gunman outside of the Empire State Building in midtown Manhattan, accidentally shooting nine bystanders caught in the crossfire.
As Congress fails to make progress on reforming the nation’s gun laws, state legislatures have filled the void. A number of states around the country, and not just deep-blue ones, have taken steps to crack down on gun violence. Even some very conservative states have defeated National Rifle Association (NRA) supported bills that would have significantly weakened state gun laws.
Here’s a run-down of ten instances of state progress that were in some cases mere proposals as recently as this January:
1. Colorado. A purple state with a strong gun culture, Colorado nevertheless enacted universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines.
2. California. Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed legislation at the beginning of May that would provide $24 million for confiscating illegally owned weapons that the police have identified, but hasn’t had the resources to seize. California is also considering thirty-odd measures strengthening the state’s gun violence prevention measures.
3. Georgia. The Georgia legislature killed a bill at the end of the last legislative session that would have allowed concealed carry in churches, courthouse, and college campuses.
4. Maryland. Maryland enacted one of the most sweeping new gun laws in the country, including an assault weapons ban, restrictions on magazine size, and a requirement that all gun purchasers get a license and submit a fingerprint sample.
5. Rhode Island. The Ocean State’s legislature is considering an omnibus gun bill, supported by its governor, Lincoln Chafee (I), that would set up a police registry of guns to better track crime guns as well as make it harder to get a concealed carry permit.
6. Delaware. In early May, Governor Jack Markell (D) signed a universal background check bill into law.
8. New York. New York strengthened its already strong gun laws, including stricter assault weapon and high capacity magazine bans.
9. Connecticut. Connecticut also passed a comprehensive package that included universal background checks for bullets as well as guns, as well as an assault weapons ban and magazine restrictions.
10. Nevada. Just this Wednesday, the Nevada Senate passed a universal background checks bill that would require a check on all private sales.
While several states have also loosened their gun laws after Newtown — and a few advanced laws so extreme that they are almost certainly unconstitutional – the above examples prove that the NRA’s stranglehold over the gun conversation isn’t nearly as tight as some believe, and that concerted effort at the state level can have significant effects on the gun policy landscape.