One year ago, Americans were jolted by yet another episode of gun-crazed carnage, at yet another school, this one in Newtown, Conn. Across the nation, grieving onlookers vowed that this would be the time that the United States passed comprehensive gun control laws. But as In These Times reports, “since then, another 194 children have been killed by guns, according to a study by Mother Jones—ten times more than were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. In September the Washington Navy Yard massacre resulted in another dozen murders, and just today, as if on cue, another horrific school murder by a shotgun-wielding youngster occurred in Centennial, Colo.
“Despite the frightening frequency of such episodes in our gun-weary nation, the outcry has not led to any successful legislative action at the federal level. While President Barack Obama has issued a well-meaning but ineffective call for a “common sense” balance between gun control and gun rights, federal legislation is going nowhere in a highly partisan, paralyzed, do-nothing Congress. In April, a majority of 54 senators voted in favor of a bill to broaden background checks to all online and gun show sales, but in the filibuster-gone-wild Senate, where 60 out of 100 votes are needed to end discussion and allow a vote, that wasn’t enough.
“At the state level though, there have been a few signs of legislative spark. In, Colorado, after being traumatized by previous mass shootings, most famously at a school in Columbine and a movie theater in Aurora, Democrats in Colorado passed some of the nation’s toughest gun control legislation this year. Shortly afterward, though, gun rights supporters responded by recalling the two state senators who had championed the bills.
“Besides Colorado, other Democratic-controlled states have taken action, including Maryland and Connecticut, which also enacted assault rifle bans. Those three states were joined by New York and Delaware in putting in place background checks for any gun purchase, including those bought on the Internet and at gun shows.
“Conventional wisdom has it that in a purple state such as Virginia, support for gun-safety legislation is best played down. Yet in Virginia’s attorney general race, support for gun control may have helped a Democrat win. The Republican candidate, state Sen. Mark Obenshain, opposed comprehensive background checks and closing the gun-show loophole, and had even voted to allow people to carry concealed guns while drinking in bars. Kevin O’Holleran, campaign manager for the winning Democratic candidate, Mark Herring, said, post-victory, “Obenshain’s position against gun-safety legislation was standard GOP fare—but it reflected a state and a voter mindset that no longer exist. Almost all Virginians support sensible gun-safety legislation.”