Nine months after the horrific mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., advocates of stricter gun-control measures have had little luck in state legislatures across the country. In fact, if the gun debate is reignited after another massacre claimed 12 victims Monday at the Navy Yard in Southeast Washington, it will take place in a country with fewer restrictions on firearms than were in place a year ago.
Gun-control advocates had hoped to pass new legislation in states where Democrats control the legislature and governor’s office. But only a handful of blue states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland and New York — advanced substantive laws.
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In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) signed legislation that would ban the sale of assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition clips and close the “gun show” loophole. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) signed a bill in May to require people to provide fingerprints and take training courses to obtain a license to buy a gun. This month, California passed legislation limiting sales of semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines and expanding the list of crimes that would prevent someone from owning a gun for 10 years. Connecticut added 100 weapons to its list of banned firearms and restricted high-capacity magazines.
In Delaware and Illinois, new rules requiring background checks for private gun sales went into effect this year. And a handful of Republican-led states passed laws this year to expand bans on gun possession by the mentally ill or by those convicted of drug-related crimes.
“What every successful effort has in common is the voice of the American public is heard, and elected officials are acting with accountability to the people that put them in office,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
But gun-rights advocates have pushed new laws in about half the states to relax restrictions on concealed-carry laws. Legislators in Kansas and Missouri passed laws that would nullify federal gun legislation, although Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) vetoed his state’s version. And in Illinois, the only state that didn’t allow residents to carry concealed weapons, legislators overrode Gov. Pat Quinn’s (D) veto of a new concealed-carry law.
A new Alaska law prohibits state and municipal agencies from implementing laws that would infringe on the Second Amendment and exempts some firearms from federal regulation. Several Arkansas laws expanded concealed-carry rules for liquor stores and churches (North Dakota concealed-carry permit holders may now also possess a gun in church). In Missouri, Nixon signed a bill to allow state employees to keep firearms in their vehicles on state property. Mississippi enacted a law that would extend concealed-carry permits to people ages 18 to 21.
And several states — including Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia — passed laws that loosen restrictions on guns carried by school safety officials, steps similar to those advocated by National Rifle Association officials after the shooting in Newtown.