Hundreds of miles away, but at exactly the same time Monday afternoon (22), a sniper opened fire inside a supermarket in Boulder, Colo., And Republican members of the Iowa State Senate voted to overturn state law that requires permission to carry a concealed weapon. The promoter of the law said he was relieved that Iowa residents could exercise their right to use guns “without a permit ticket.”
But in Maryland last month, Democrats overturned Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto on a law that extends background checks for people who buy guns. And Virginia Democrats have passed laws that ban the carrying of weapons on state Capitol grounds and strengthen the state’s background check system.
The divergent efforts reflect the diversity of gun laws which vary from state to state, in accordance with state biases in each state. Meanwhile, Congress has not addressed gun violence with meaningful legislation since 1994, when a ten-year ban on the use of assault weapons was included in the criminal law advocated by the current President Joe Biden.
Since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, in which 20 freshmen and six adults, 13 states, all Democrat-controlled, have died, enacted or expanded background checks for new purchases of firearms. Meanwhile, 14 states, all Republican-controlled, have passed laws allowing their citizens to bear arms without going through any licensing process, as the bill in Iowa would.
The political divide between states regarding arms policy is another example of how national issues define local politics. These issues include the right to abortion and, in the post-Trump era, the right to vote.
“We’ve seen states act because the federal government hasn’t,” said Laura Cutilletta, executive director of the Gifford Legal Center for the Prevention of Gun Violence. “But to truly protect Americans and everyone who lives in the country, we need a federal solution, because guns cross state borders.”
Despite this, weapons policy has changed dramatically in the past decade since the Sandy Hook massacre. Since then, two large gun organizations, backed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Arizona MP Gabrielle Giffords, herself a victim of gun violence, have formed gun violence organizations. base across the country. In the 2018 and 2020 elections, for the first time, these groups spent more on federal campaigns than the struggling National Rifle Association (NRA).
At the same time, gun control has become a clearly partisan issue. Earlier this month, when the House passed a background check, only one Democratic MP – Jared Gold of Maine – voted against the measure, while only eight Republicans voted in favor.
The vast majority of Republicans continue to strongly oppose the new gun regulations, arguing that the Second Amendment is sacrosanct and should be restricted by virtually no legislation. Republicans argue gun violence should be tackled with measures such as more policing, not restrictions on gun rights.
Republicans also regularly seek to limit the restrictions in place. In some cases, they are trying to capitalize on the massacres to bolster their fundraising efforts. Representative Lauren Boebert, of Colorado, responded to Monday’s massacre in Boulder with an appeal for $ 10 to $ 25, while touting her adherence to the rights to use and bear arms.
“They want to take resources from our police. They want to take our guns, ”she wrote. “What do we think is coming next?” We cannot lose this right. “
Iowa’s legislation, passed in a divided party vote Monday, repeals a series of requirements for new gun owners that have been in place for more than two decades. This is a consequence of the large Republican majorities in the state legislature.
The reverse dynamic is visible in other state legislatures. In Virginia, Democrats, starting with Terry McAuliffe’s candidacy for governor in 2013, campaigned for background checks and a ban on assault weapons. When the party finally won a majority in the legislature after the 2019 election, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a law extending background checks and a so-called red flag law that allows police to obtain a court order. preventing a person in crisis from acquiring a firearm. Northam also passed a measure that allows local governments to enact additional restrictions on the use of guns.
But Virginia lawmakers have not banned the use of assault weapons or restricted the sale of high-capacity ammo clamps – the kind of restrictions that would limit the availability of military-style weapons used in many of the worst killings. in the country.
“We work on the fringes of gun violence prevention, in important ways that work. But we have real opportunities to promote responsible gun ownership, and there is still a long way to go, ”said Democratic Virginia MP Dan Helmer, who in 2019 took the place of a pro-gun republican. “State laws won’t do the job alone.”
In 2013, Colorado, a state with a history rich in massacres, including the Columbine School in 1999, passed a background check and training requirement for people purchasing guns. The state has also banned the sale of combs containing more than 15 bullets.
John Feinblatt, chairman of Everytown for Gun Safety, the arms control entity backed by Michael Bloomberg, said on Tuesday gun control policy had “changed completely” since the Sandy Hook massacre. He cited universal Democratic support for measures such as the Democratic background check and House wins in 2018, Virginia lawmakers in 2019 and Joe Biden last year.
He said the background check requirement must precede stricter gun control measures, such as a ban on the use of assault weapons, which Biden defended in statements he made on Tuesday. afternoon about the Colorado massacre.
“I am not a law enforcement officer, but I am telling you that without a background check law, none of the other laws will be as effective as they could be,” Feinblatt said.
Yet there is growing frustration between grassroots activists and an emerging community of gun control activists who argue that it is not enough to simply defend the background check.
In 2019, Texas-based Beto O’Rourke streamlined his presidential campaign by calling for the ban and confiscation of assault weapons. The proposal was not politically viable, but it marked one of the few times that someone with a national political profile was in favor of reducing the number of weapons in circulation, now estimated at nearly 400 million in the United States.
“Just look at what has been done by countries around the world that have almost eliminated mass violence in their territory,” said Igor Volsky, founder and executive director of Guns Down America, an organization fighting to reduce the number of weapons in the country. . “We know what to do, we just don’t have the political will to do it. We rarely see the kind of bold advocacy work from the gun violence prevention space that we often see in the immigration or LGBTQ space.