In scores of statehouse battles, both gun-control and gun-rights
advocates have notched wins since a mentally unstable gunman killed
20 first-graders and six adults at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary
School on December 14, 2012.
Electoral and legislative fights since Newtown — including the
election last month of a Democratic gun-control supporter, Terry
McAuliffe, as governor of Virginia, the home state of the powerful
National Rifle Association gun lobby — are likely a foretaste of
battles to come next year in federal and state elections.
"We're in this for the long haul," said Mark Glaze, executive
director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition founded by
Bloomberg. "This issue is like a cruise ship that's been going in
the wrong direction for a long time, directly toward the iceberg,
and it's going to take a while to turn around."
Democratic President Barack Obama supported legislation in Congress
this year that would have extended background checks for sales made
online and at gun shows. A Reuters/Ipsos poll in January showed that
86 percent of those surveyed favored background checks for all gun
Obama also backed a proposal to ban rapid-firing "assault" weapons
like the one used in Newtown and tighter limits on the capacity of
But the measures failed to clear the Senate in April in the face of
opposition from gun-rights advocates who say it is essential to hold
the line on Americans' right to keep and bear arms under the Second
Amendment of the Constitution.
The NRA has argued that attacks like Newtown were more a result of a
weak mental health system than lax firearms regulations.
A week after the Newtown attack, NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre
came out strongly against gun control and called instead for armed
guards in each of the 99,000 schools in the United States.
NRA officials declined to be interviewed for this story.
Erich Pratt, a spokesman for the Gun Owners of America, a gun rights
group, said both Obama's gun-control approach and gun-free zones for
schools and other sites of mass shootings are misguided.
"So when a bad guy walks in there with a gun, he's going to be the
only one with a gun until the police can arrive," Pratt told Reuters
In the U.S. House of Representatives, a gun-control bill by Mike
Thompson, a California Democrat and the chairman of the House Gun
Violence Prevention Task Force, has gained 186 co-signers but has
been stalled for months.
The bill by Thompson, a gun owner and Second Amendment backer, would
expand background checks but also would have features designed to
attract support from gun-rights advocates such as banning gun
"When the federal government failed to act, the states stepped in to
fill the void" on gun-control legislation, Thompson said.
In response to the Newtown massacre and the 2012 shooting deaths of
12 people in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, about 1,500 pieces
of gun legislation were introduced in U.S. state legislatures,
according to the Institute For Money In State Politics in Helena,
Only about 10 percent of them were passed, with a slight edge — 74
to 66 — for gun-rights bills. They included making it easier in some
states to get concealed-carry permits or removing information about
gun or concealed-carry permits from the public record, the institute
On the gun-control side, the most common theme was modifying laws on
issuance of concealed-carry permits.
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But major changes came in five northeastern states — New York,
Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey — with passage
of legislative packages that featured restrictions on military-style
weapons like those used in Aurora and Newtown.
"The number of new strong state laws is, at least since I've been
involved in the movement, unprecedented," said Lindsay Nichols,
attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco.
Colorado also passed gun-control measures, but since then gun-rights
activists have used recall elections to oust two state senators who
had backed them.
The ousters came despite the nearly $3 million Bloomberg and other
gun-control advocates spent to stave off the recalls. A third
senator resigned in November rather than face a recall vote.
Pratt, the Gun Owners of America spokesman, said the Colorado
recalls would be a big factor in congressional midterm elections
"What happened in Colorado should send shock waves through every
legislator's heart that's been supportive of gun control," he said.
A shift in the fight over firearms has come with the entry of
Bloomberg, the billionaire founder of the media and data company
that bears his name, on the gun-control side.
"Money always helps, and for the first time the gun safety side has
some money behind it," said Jim Kessler, a founder of the Third Way
think tank in Washington.
As of November 13, Bloomberg's Independence USA political action
committee has sunk $2.97 million this year into federal races,
according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
That includes $2.2 million in an Illinois Democratic primary that
saw gun-control backer Robin Kelly defeat Deborah Halvorson, who had
been highly rated by the NRA.
Independence USA also outpaced the NRA roughly 5 to 1 when it spent
about $3 million successfully backing gun-control Democrats for
Virginia governor and attorney general, according to the Virginia
Public Access Project, which tracks money in state politics.
Spending on federal lobbying for gun control rose to $1.8 million
this year, a ninefold increase from the year before, according to
the Center for Responsive Politics.
But that was still far behind gun-rights lobbying, whose spending
more than doubled, to almost $13 million. The rising tide of money
came as the number of groups lobbying on both sides of the issue
roughly doubled this year, to about 80.
(Additional reporting by Katharine Jackson;
editing by Scott Malone
and Douglas Royalty)
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