Six months ago, the United States witnessed the senseless killing of 20 children and six school employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The shooting led to a nationwide debate on gun control and a push for stricter gun control legislation to prevent a tragedy like Newtown from ever happening again. Six months later, what have we as a nation done? Almost nothing.
“April 17 was a day of shame,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), when the comprehensive gun control bill was voted down by the Senate. Even in the wake of a heart wrenching national tragedy, pleas from the Newtown shooting victims’ families, and overwhelming national support for reform, our nation’s legislature could not push past re-election concerns fueled by the lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association. After the defeat of the gun control bill, both President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reprimanded the Senate for not taking action and promised that the failure would not be the end of the gun control. Yet since then, there has not been any indication that gun control legislation will resurface in Congress.
This week, in another effort to reignite legislative efforts on gun control, grass-roots groups advocating for more gun-control, including the Newtown Action Alliance, went door to door on Capitol Hill meeting with both Democratic and Republican members of Congress. The families of the victims also made another trip up to Washington to please for action in meetings House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). Even though Cantor stated he was “struck again by the incredible pain that they are going through,” neither of the top Republican leaders gave any indication of taking action. The House to this day has not taken up the issue of gun control.
Regardless of these advocacy efforts, Congress is unlikely to revisit the issue of gun control before the 2014 midterm elections. With the retirement of many notable Democratic Senators, the Democratic Party is at risk of losing their majority in the Senate to the Republicans. This risk will damper the will of Democrats to take a stronger position on passing gun control. In response to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg targeting of four Democrats who voted down the gun control bill, Senator Reid said “to have Republicans control the Senate is a sure sign we will never get anything done.” For the Republicans in the House, there is no incentive to bring gun control legislation to the floor, especially since most House Republicans are against gun control and are backed by the National Rifle Association.
The most progress made on gun control post-Newtown has been on the state level. Since December, the six states of Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Delaware, Colorado, and California have passed legislation strengthening their own firearms laws. In addition, the governors of Utah and Montana, traditionally red states, vetoed legislation that would have allowed weapons to be carried in public without a permit or background check. But in many states have adopted laws loosening gun control standards. At least eight states have passed laws that exempt gun permits from public records. Kansas has adopted a law saying federal statutes violating the Second Amendment are no longer applicable in the state. You can find a comprehensive list of state gun control law changes here.
It seems that we as a nation are taking one step forward and two steps back on the issue of gun control. America had its best chance to push forward comprehensive gun control reform to make this country safer and our representatives could not muster up the political will. Gun control advocates and gun owners (including myself) understand that the status quo of gun control is intolerable as it allows tragedies like Newtown to occur. We as citizens must never forget the Newtown tragedy.
We as citizens, like the families of the Newton victims, must fight to give our government leaders the political will to enact change. We as citizens must take action to make this country safer for our children.