Page 2 of 2   <      

Opinions about gun controlnot likely to be swayed

In the Arizona incident, however, Jared Lee Loughner, the suspected shooter, legally purchased a gun in late November in Tucson. "If there is no direct nexus to a loophole, a legislative push becomes more diffuse and more difficult," Kessler said.

Another factor to consider in weighing the likelihood of a major change - or even a minor one - in gun laws is the legislative power of the National Rifle Association.

The NRA has one of the most sophisticated lobbying and grass-roots political operations in the country, closely monitoring and fighting any attempts to restrict gun rights. That vigilance has largely kept gun-control legislation at bay in recent years.

The X-factor in all of these calculations is whether an attack on one of their own changes the way members of Congress - Democrats and Republicans - feel about gun control.

(Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a New York Democrat and longtime gun-control advocate, said Sunday that she plans to introduce legislation to further address the issue.)

But, given the declining support for more gun laws over the past two decades and the apparent disconnect between tragedy and public opinion on the issue, it's hard to imagine any significant legislative action to restrict rights.

"Most law-abiding people will not see restrictions of their rights as the solution," Republican pollster John McLaughlin said. "However, they will want their security increased. That's the real challenge."

<       2

© 2011 The Washington Post Company