Congress Has Achieved Little on Gun Control Despite Rhetoric

Image: Congress Has Achieved Little on Gun Control Despite Rhetoric A sign advocating gun control is seen on a makeshift memorial.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014 11:41 AM

By Melanie Batley

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In the wake of every mass shooting in the United States, congressional lawmakers call for tighter gun control measures, but ultimately little is achieved to change gun laws, according to The Washington Post.

The Post noted, for example, that on Sunday, California Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal told CBS' Face the Nation, "Congress will be complicit if we fail to act." Blumenthal commented after a Friday rampage at the University of California, Santa Barbara campus left six people dead and 13 injured.

"We've heard similar exhortations for Congress to pass new gun legislation after many mass shootings," Jaime Fuller wrote in the Post's The Fix column. "However, we also hear arguments for loosening gun restrictions, arguments that have proved far more successful."

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According to the newspaper, since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 that killed 13 people, Congress has passed only one major law to strengthen gun control. And in the year following Columbine, less than 10 percent of the 800 gun bills that were introduced around the country passed.

The one gun control law that did get through Congress came nine months after the Virginia Polytechnic Institute in April 2007. That measure aimed to improve the national background check system, adding more records for felons and the mentally ill to the federal database.

The bill, however, left other flaws in the background system unresolved, and the Center on Public Integrity said in 2011 that the law did not make a significant impact, the Post reported.

The Post noted, however, that the poor legislative success rate of gun control measures does not imply a total lack of action on the part of lawmakers, and highlighted a December 2013 New York Times report that found that 1,500 gun bills had been introduced around the country since the 2012 Newtown, Conn., school massacre.

On the federal level, the Post said, policy changes have came only through President Barack Obama's 23 executive actions aimed at reducing gun violence.

By contrast, even though polls indicate that there is a spike in public opinion in favor of gun control in the immediate aftermath of a shooting, the opinion wanes shortly thereafter, the paper said.

Campaigns to expand gun access, meanwhile, have gained traction, with supporters believing that a well-armed public is the best deterrent to future mass shootings, according to the Post.

"In short, mass shootings have done little to alter Congress' desire to change our country's federal gun policies. On the state level, shootings have been more likely to inspire a step away from gun regulation lately," the Post said.

"It seems unlikely that Congress will renew attempts to pass new background check legislation or new gun restrictions for mentally ill persons — especially this close to an election that could change leadership in the Senate."

The Post concluded, "Many gun bills may emerge in the next few months, but history doesn't bode well for their chances."

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