There is concern across America that the Sandy Hook mass shooting has given gun control efforts significant — and unwarranted — momentum. Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado signed new gun control legislation this week, and President Obama is again pushing Congress to pass additional federal gun control laws. Although it is a sad week for Second Amendment supporters in Colorado, that state is an outlier. What happened in Newtown was a tragedy, but heightening gun restrictions is not the right response.
Governor Hickenlooper, a Democrat, signed into law on Wednesday legislation that expands background checks on gun purchases and limits the sizes of ammunition magazines to 15 rounds. Colorado used to be more of a purple state that could go either Democrat or Republican, but in recent years it has turned into a blue state. It was home to the 1999 Columbine school shooting and the Aurora movie theater shooting that killed 12 people last summer. These tragic incidents, combined with Sandy Hook, created an emotional climate to pass gun control legislation.
Contrast Colorado with nearby Arizona. Arizona experienced the tragic, high-profile shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2011. Yet there is no chance any new gun control laws will be passed. In fact, Arizona is now considered the most gun-owner friendly state in the country. The state’s legislature and most top political offices are held by Republicans, whereas, the reverse is true in Colorado. This is evidence that a high-profile mass shooting is not enough to turn the tide in favor of gun control; the political climate is more determinative.
Very few states other than Colorado are getting anywhere with gun control legislation. New York is the only other state to pass legislation this year. New York’s new law passed in January, banning magazines that contain more than seven bullets, requiring universal background checks, and requiring gun registration for most firearms. But even New York’s Governor Cuomo is now backtracking on some of the highly unpopular controls.
Federal efforts are also going nowhere. Aware that the public support isn’t there, Congress and Obama have backed off on trying to pass an assault weapons ban, and at this point in time are only considering universal background checks. There is little chance even that will pass, however, since Republicans control the House of Representatives.
In fact, bills are being proposed and passed in state legislatures loosening up gun control laws. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, while 574 gun control bills have been proposed since January 1, 512 bills have been proposed to bolster gun rights. Pro-gun legislation has been passed into law this year in Maine, South Dakota, Arkansas and Missouri.