At a federal level, very little seems to have happened; despite the President making it clear he is favour of measures to change the laws relating to gun ownership, no legislation that affects gun owners and users of any significance has been passed. An assault weapons ban came to nothing and although the senate attempted to pass alterations to the universal background check, they were unable to get enough support from Republican senators to make this a reality. Despite Obama’s personal support of such measures, it seems unlikely that the federal government will make any further moves to limit access to guns. With the Republicans calling the shots it’s also unlikely that further measures will be proposed as the political risk of defeat would be too great at this stage in the Presidency.
At State level, attempts to restrict gun ownership or use have been mixed. In fact the unpopularity of the concept with the American public seems clearer than ever, especially in the states that have attempted to change the legislation. Democrat controlled California, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Colorado and Illinois have all attempted to pass more restrictive laws. Although passed, the public’s support has been lukewarm. In the case of Colorado two senators were recalled, losing their positions as a direct result of the legislation – one of these Senators, Angela Giron, represented an area in which support for Obama had been high. In effect, the American public have made it clear that there is little appetite for this type of legislation and it seems that restrictions on guns are unlikely at either state or federal level.
Tightening of restrictions has not been universal. In a string of states including Alabama, South Dakota and Texas, to name but a few, restrictions have been relaxed. Some have passed laws that allow for individuals to carry guns in more public places than before, while a number have relaxed restrictions on school security staff carrying weapons. Although the picture is varied across the states in general it is becoming easier to both own and carry a gun across the country.
Media Attitude and Responses
For the last two decades the American public have repeatedly made it clear that there is no appetite for wider restrictions on gun control. If anything, the opposite seems to be true, and even after the Columbine shootings in 1999 and the recent Newton tragedy, jumps in support for controls have been short-lived. In both cases the annual downward trend for allowing less restriction briefly jumped, but soon returned to its previous level and subsequently continued to decline. In reality the public’s opinion is clear and this is reflected in the media coverage around shooting incidents. The media thrives on reporting on issues that matter to the public and can be a good indicator of how strong support is on any given issue. Mentions of gun control in the aftermath of Newton reached a high over twenty thousand in the month of February, two months after the shootings. This figure dropped radically in the following months and by November this year had fallen to just a few thousands; despite the 50 anniversary of the assassination of JFK, and the first anniversary of the Newport massacre, it seems that as far as the media is concerned gun control is not an issue the public have any interest in.
For gun owners and those in favour of lower or minimal gun control this is good news. Whatever the various political parties claim, it seems unlikely that gun control will see any major legislative changes in the near or even mid-future for the time being there are sites like gunsamerica.com providing easy access to firearms .Even those states that have tighter restrictions at present may, in time, find it expedient to relax them. The long history of gun ownership in the US and the fact that it is protected within the constitution is partly the result of history – the frontier culture – and is seen as essentially a basic right that Americans hold. Public demand for changes to the laws are fitful and by far the overwhelming majority of American citizens remain in favour of maintaining the status quo.
Writer and fan of Ben Grant looks at the impact of recent mass shootings in the US on the public attitude to gun ownership.