AP: Widespread action on gun control in the states is unlikely


Associated Press

IOWA CITY, IOWA

The campaign for tighter gun laws that inspired unprecedented student walkouts across the country faces an uphill climb in a majority of states, an Associated Press review of gun legislation found.

The AP survey of bill activity in state legislatures before and after the high-school shooting in Parkland, Fla., provides a reality check on the ambitions of the “Enough is Enough” movement. It suggests votes like the one in Florida, where Republican lawmakers defied the National Rifle Association to pass new gun regulations, are unlikely to be repeated in many other states, at least not this year.

The student-led activism might yet lead to reforms in the future. But for now, the gun debate among most lawmakers still falls along predictable and largely partisan lines, with few exceptions, according to the analysis.

Because Congress shows no sign of acting, state legislatures dominate the national debate over guns. And major changes won’t be easy to achieve in statehouses that are mostly controlled by the gun-friendly GOP.

Republicans have sponsored more than 80 percent of bills that would expand gun rights, while Democrats have introduced more than 90 percent of bills to limit them. The total number of gun-rights and gun-control bills identified by AP statehouse reporters is roughly equal – about 300 in each category.

Many of the Democratic gun-control bills have been introduced in legislatures dominated by Republicans, meaning they have little or no chance of passing.

Iowa’s GOP-controlled Legislature, which last year approved a historic expansion of gun rights, has not held hearings on Democratic proposals to ban assault-style weapons, prohibit high-capacity magazines or expand background checks. Instead, lawmakers have considered more pro-gun initiatives, including a bill to allow residents to carry handguns without obtaining permits and a resolution to enshrine the right to bear arms in the Iowa Constitution.

Iowa Gun Owners, a “no-compromise gun lobby,” has mobilized its members to pressure Republican lawmakers to hold firm.

“We’re not going to back off any advocacy of expanding gun rights,” Executive Director Aaron Dorr said.

After the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, public support for gun control reached the highest point since 1993, with two-thirds of Americans supporting stricter laws, according to a Gallup Poll released Wednesday.

Several corporations have also cut ties with the NRA, and some retailers have announced they will no longer sell rifles to anyone under 21. But the response in states has been more predictable.

Some Democratic-controlled states with restrictive gun and ammunition laws are moving to tighten them further. Aside from Florida, Republican-led states have mostly rejected new gun-control measures and instead are weighing whether to arm teachers and allow more guns in public places.

Several states are considering raising the age to buy rifles to 21 or debating “red flag” laws that would allow courts to order the temporary seizure of guns from people showing signs of mental distress or violence.

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