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Armed With New Power, Democrats Push for Stricter Gun Laws
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=21172"><span class="small">Joseph Ax, Reuters</span></a>   
Sunday, 10 February 2019 15:01

Ax writes: "Democratic lawmakers are pushing stricter gun laws in statehouses across the country, emboldened by sweeping electoral victories in 2018 and confident that public opinion is on their side a year after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida."

Protesters hold signs as they call for a reform of gun laws three days after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, at a rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., February 17, 2018. (photo: Jonathan Drake/Reuters)
Protesters hold signs as they call for a reform of gun laws three days after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, at a rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., February 17, 2018. (photo: Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

Armed With New Power, Democrats Push for Stricter Gun Laws

By Joseph Ax, Reuters

10 February 19


emocratic lawmakers are pushing stricter gun laws in statehouses across the country, emboldened by sweeping electoral victories in 2018 and confident that public opinion is on their side a year after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Last year’s wins handed Democrats control of the governorship and legislature in several more states, including New Mexico, New York, Colorado, Maine and Nevada, and lawmakers are using their new power to draft or pass gun laws.

In Colorado, Tom Sullivan spent years urging lawmakers to tackle gun violence after his 27-year-old son, Alex, was killed in the 2012 movie theater shooting there.

Now Sullivan is helping write those bills after winning a state Assembly seat, part of a Democratic wave in November that gave the party full control of Colorado’s government for the first time in five years.

“People are standing up and having their voices heard,” said Sullivan, who wears his son’s leather jacket to the capitol. “Now they have to see me every single day.”

Polls show Americans favor tougher gun laws after decades of mass shootings, including the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students and staff members. But the political might of the National Rifle Association – and its deep coffers – made supporting gun restrictions a risky proposition for many officials.

That changed last year, when Democratic candidates ran on the issue of gun violence in unprecedented numbers.

At the federal level, where Democrats captured the U.S. House of Representatives after eight years of Republican control, nearly 80 percent of the 62 freshman Democrats elected in November included gun safety in their campaign platforms, a Reuters analysis found. That far outstripped the proportion of candidates who did so in 2016.

House Democrats have introduced a bill requiring criminal background checks for private and gun show firearm sales, closing what advocates call a deadly loophole in federal law.

But with Republicans, who typically oppose gun restrictions, still in control of the U.S. Senate, the legislation’s prospects appear dim.

Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey said a Democratic House could put pressure on the Senate to reconsider a bipartisan background checks measure he sponsored after the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 first-graders. The bill narrowly failed to get the 60 votes needed for passage.

Now, he said, “there is a distinct possibility that we could have enough Republicans to get to 60, but that’s still an open question.”


National gun safety groups are more optimistic about making progress outside Washington, with nearly 20 states poised to take up gun safety bills this year, they said.

Lawmakers are focusing on bills with widespread approval in public polling, including background checks, “red flag” bills that allow judges to confiscate guns from dangerous people and bans on domestic abusers owning guns. Several states passed similar laws last year, including some with Republican governors or legislatures, and advocates say they hope to draw Republican votes in numerous states this year.

Gun rights groups also are pursuing new state laws. South Dakota in January began allowing residents to carry concealed handguns with no permit, while other states are considering arming teachers.

“We continue to defeat gun control legislation across the country while passing gun rights legislation,” said NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker.

So far this year, gun safety advocates have found success in several states while encountering roadblocks in others, including from some Democrats.

New York last month passed a red flag law, extended waiting periods and prohibited armed teachers in schools.

In Nevada, where the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history occurred at a 2017 music festival in Las Vegas, Democratic leaders have vowed to implement the background checks approved by voters in a 2016 referendum. The state’s former Republican attorney general had refused to do so.

“It’s a high priority,” said Jason Frierson, speaker of the state Assembly. “We have a new class of candidates who feel passionately about this issue.”

In New Mexico, newly elected Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has called for red flag, domestic abuser and background check bills. The Democratic-led legislature is expected to pass all three within weeks, said Speaker of the House Brian Egolf.

Some Democratic lawmakers in Maine, which has a strong hunting culture, introduced a raft of measures including a large-capacity magazine ban, a background check bill and a red flag law.

But newly elected Democratic Governor Janet Mills has said she opposes the background check bill after voters rejected a similar measure in 2016. Gun safety advocates privately concede they do not expect any of the major legislation to become law.

Perhaps no state better encapsulates the political volatility around guns than Colorado, which has both a deep tradition of gun ownership and a history of mass shootings, including the 1999 Columbine school massacre and the Aurora movie theater killings.

In 2013, after the Aurora attack, the legislature passed background checks and a high-capacity ammunition magazine ban. In response, an NRA-backed recall election removed the Democratic state Senate leader and another member, and Democrats lost their Senate majority the following year.

John Morse, the ousted Senate leader, said Democrats should be even more aggressive now in passing gun laws.

“No one in Colorado needs to fear what happened to us,” he said. “The country is starting to get that the gun lobby has no interest whatsoever in any kind of common sense things.”

For now, however, Colorado Democrats say they will focus solely on a red flag bill before considering other measures.

“I’m a fourth-generation Coloradan, and gun ownership is a way of life,” said Alec Garnett, the state Assembly Democratic majority leader. “What I’ve learned in this business is there’s no clear path for anything.”

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0 # 2019-02-10 23:43
I think we should have legislation to treat guns like cars.

Guns should be licensed, registered, and insured.

Owners/users should pass tests to show they know how to use and store guns safely.
0 # skylinefirepest 2019-02-12 14:19
Owning a car, Stevee, is a privilege not a Constitutional right. And why should my firearms be registered or insured? My firearms pose no threat to you or anyone else who is not threatening me or my family. "Know how to use and store guns"? In that case everyone with a gun should be required to be a member of the NRA which is the only large gun safety group in this country! Doesn't it bother you when you see the idiots ( pelosi, clinton, feinstein, schumer, etc. )talking about guns and waving them around with their fingers on the triggers, sweeping the camera and other people with the barrels, never checking to make sure the firearms are cleared?
-3 # lorenbliss 2019-02-11 05:05
Interesting how the Capitalist Ruling Class wants to forcibly disarm all humans now that anti-human violence by the subhumans -- i.e., the Nazis, the ChristoNazis, the fascists in general -- is already at an all-time high. Forcible disarmament ensures our defenselessness , especially as the Nazi violence continues to escalate, now openly supported by local, state and federal cops and secret police. Soon it will be mandatory pacifism and compulsory victimhood for all of us humans – statutory defenselessness for anyone not privileged by the Ruling Class to be proudly and violently subhuman. Wake up, people, before it's too late; exactly as in Nazi Germany, forcible civilian disarmament is literally a death sentence for anyone who is not part of Capitalism's New Sturmabteilung.
-3 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-02-11 08:27
This is good but so far there is not much substance. The "red flag" laws are no brainers. No one with a history of spousal abuse should be allowed to own a gun. Banning bump-stocks and other full auto modifications is also good.

What laws could actually do anything about mass shootings? The Las Vegas shooter would have passed any background check and probably did when he bought all those guns. I still think the answer to mass shootings lies in the psychological treatment of the shooters. Most of them have a history of prescriptions to anti-psychotic drugs, which are known to have deadly side effects.

And I also thing a public relations campaign to de-mystify guns would help more than any prohibition law. Cigarette smoking is down because smoking was made unfashionable. People who smoke are shunned. The same could be done with gun ownership or concealed carry. Hire some good "ad people" to change the public perception of guns. Right now guns are a status symbol or a fetish. Many people need this psychological boost for their damaged psyches.

Now it is time for Democrats to show what they've got. I hope they have something. Successful gun measures are very desperately needed.
0 # skylinefirepest 2019-02-12 14:14
Rodion, while I agree with part of what you're saying I think you're a little over the top with your "status symbol or fetish" comment. I'd find it hard to believe that over a hundred million law abiding firearms owning Americans use their firearms for a status symbol or are a fetish for them. You're not taking into account that the law abiding use them a few million times a year to dispel crime. You're not taking into account that people hunt for food and use firearms to protect themselves and their families from the two legged, four legged, and slithery types of animals who would do harm. We don't need further gun measures...ther e's thousands upon thousands of gun control laws on the books now...and the liberal leftists always holler that we just need one more law. What we need is for crimes committed with guns to be prosecuted instead of traded away.