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9 Reasons Why Progress on Stronger Gun Laws Is Within Reach

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    1 Center or American Progress | 9 Reasons Why Progress on Stronger Gun Laws Is Within Reach

    9 Reasons Why Progress on

    Stronger Gun Laws Is Within ReachArkadi Gerney and Chelsea Parsons May 7, 2013

    In he weeks ha ollowed he ragic shooing a Sandy Hook Elemenary School in

    Newown, Connecicu, his pas December, advocaes or sronger gun laws ocused

    heir eors on a proposal o require background checks or mos gun sales beween

    unlicensed buyers and sellers o preven criminals and oher dangerous people rom eas-

    ily buying guns wih no quesions asked. Tree weeks ago, however, he Senae came sixvoes shor o he 60 voes required o advance his legislaion, known as he Manchin-

    oomey amendmen, ha would have expanded gun background checks o all gun

    shows, online purchases, and adverised sales.1

    Some observers were quick o poin o he voe as evidence o he Naion ie

    Associaions, or NRs, enduring power, bu here are several reasons o believe ha

    he gun lobbys dominance is in jeopardy and ha is vicory in he Senae may have

    been a pyrrhic one. Below are nine reasons why progress on sronger gun laws is, in

    ac, sill wihin reach.

    1. Swing-state momentum

    In April 2008 presidenial candidaes Barack Obama and Hillary Clinon, hen

    Democraic senaors o Chicago and New York, respecively, were in a monh-long

    piched batle o win he Pennsylvania primary. Te cones played ou as Sen. Obamas

    remarks a a San Francisco undraising even regarding clinging o guns and religion

    became public. Te remarks se o a resorm and sen boh candidaes ino a mode o

    proving heir pro-gun bona des in he run-up o he Pennsylvania primary. Te Clinon

    campaign even circulaed mail pieces asking, Where does Barack Obama really sand

    on guns? and suggesing ha he avored a oal ban on handguns.2 While Pennsylvania

    does have he second-larges concenraion o NR members o any sae,3 i was odd o

    see candidaes in a Democraic primary going so ar o sress heir pro-gun posiions in a

    sae ha suers high raes o gun crime.

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    2 Center or American Progress | 9 Reasons Why Progress on Stronger Gun Laws Is Within Reach

    Around he same ime in early 2008, a small group o leading gun-violence-prevenion

    advocaes and unders developed a sraegy o ocus resources on a handul o key pur-

    ple saes, wih hree saes a he op o he lis: Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Virginia.

    Wha ollowed was a concered eor o build coaliions o mayors and law enorcemen,

    srenghen he voices o gun-violence survivors, develop in-sae gun-violence-prevenion

    organizaions, and cones elecions. Te rui o ha sraegy is eviden oday.

    Pennsylvania

    Over the past ve years, Mayors Against Illegal Guns has built a coalition

    o more than 150 mayors across Pennsylvania,4 and the nations strongest

    state-level gun advocacy group, CeaserePA, has built a vast network o

    grassroots supporters.5 These eorts helped turn Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA)

    and Pat Toomey (R-PA)both o whom received an A rating rom the

    NRAinto advocates or tighter gun background checks.6 The eorts also

    infuenced two Republicans in the Pennsylvania U.S. House delegationRep. Mike Fitzpatrick and Rep. Pat Meehanto support comprehensive

    background checks.7

    ColoradoOver the past ve years in Colorado, a small band o survivors o the 1999

    Columbine High School mass shooting, along with amily members o

    victims, have teamed with local mayors and other advocates, undertaking

    a series o campaigns to advance gun-violence-prevention legislation. In

    the midst o his re-election campaign in 2010, or example, Sen. Michael

    Bennet (D-CO) endorsed background checks on all gun-show sales,

    provoking the NRA to double down on its eorts to promote his opponent

    Ken Buck.8 But as the campaign played out, Bucks extreme positions on

    gunsincluding his misconduct in a case against a corrupt gun dealer9

    became a liability.

    Sen. Bennet won the support o Colorado sportsmen,10 and even NRA board

    member Bob Barr called out Ken Buck on his gun extremism.11 These eorts

    helped tilt a tight race in avor o Sen. Bennet and, along with the Aurora ma

    shooting in July 2012, they provided an impetus to advance gun-violence-p

    vention legislation within the state. Two months ago those years o preparin

    the ground in Colorado proved ruitul: The state legislature passed and Gov.

    John Hickenlooper (D) signed comprehensive gun reorm legislation which

    cluded universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines

    VirginiaIn Virginia the gains have been more limited. The Virginia Tech shooting

    in 2007 put guns in the spotlight, and survivors o the shooting, as well a

    amily members o victims, have developed into the states leading advo

    cates or expanded background checks. In the years since the shooting,

    however, the state legislature has consistently blocked the background-

    check measure and reversed a law passed in the 1990s to limit handgun

    sales to one handgun per month.13

    But there is evidence o progress. In 2010 a $450,000 independent expe

    diture ocused on gun background checks was credited or the deeat o

    Republican Keith Fimian by 900 votes in a U.S. House race or the district

    where the NRA is headquartered.14 The gun issue will likely be contested

    again in Virginias 2013 races.

    Te botom line: Wih advocaes or sronger gun laws gaining ground in Pennsylvania,

    Colorado, and Virginia, he prospecs naionally are brigh.

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    3 Center or American Progress | 9 Reasons Why Progress on Stronger Gun Laws Is Within Reach

    2. Evolving demographics

    Our counry is undergoing a culure shi on guns. While he number o guns in circulaion

    in he counry has coninued o rise,15 he percenage o households ha own guns has been

    seadily declining or he pas hree decades, reaching a low o 34 percen in 2012, down

    rom an average o 50 percen in he 1970s.16 Fewer Americans own guns, bu he ones who

    do are likely o own more guns han ever. Driving his rend are declining gun-ownershipraes among young people. Daa rom he General Social Survey, a public-opinion survey

    conduced every wo years, ound ha household gun-ownership raes among people

    under 30 ell o 23 percen in 2012. Tis is down rom a high o 47 percen in he 1970s.17

    No only are ewer young people choosing o own guns han in previous generaions,

    bu hey are also expressing evolving views on he role o guns in American culure. An

    April 2013 poll commissioned by he Cener or American Progress, Campus Progress,

    and Mayors Agains Illegal Guns and conduced by Democraic pollser Mike Bocian

    and epublican pollser Bob Carpener reveals ha young Americans have increasing

    concerns abou he widespread presence o guns in sociey. Seveny percen o respon-dens under he age o 30 agreed ha he gun culure in our sociey has goten ou o

    conrol, and 52 percen said ha hey eel saer in communiies wih ewer guns, wih

    only 32 percen holding he opposie view.18 Par o his concern abou guns may come

    rom personal experience wih gun violence. Tiry percen o people under he age o

    30 repored having been personally aeced or knowing someone who has been aeced

    by gun violence, and 60 percen expressed concern ha gun violence may aec hem

    or heir communiies in he uure.19 Tese numbers were even higher among young

    Arican Americans, Lainos, and Asian Americans: Collecively, 73 percen repored

    worrying abou being personally aeced by gun violence in he uure.20

    Tese views abou, as well as he experience o, he gun culure among younger Americans

    appear o ranslae ino higher suppor or specic policies. Te Bocian and Carpener

    poll shows ha while background checks or all gun sales are popular among Americans

    over he age o 3086 percen said ha hey suppor such a lawi is even more popular

    among Americans aged 18 o 29, wih 92 percen saying ha hey suppor he measure.21

    3. A new center of gravity

    wo weeks ago Mayors Agains Illegal Guns celebraed is sevenh birhday. On April 25,

    2006, 15 mayors rom across he counryDemocras, epublicans, and independens

    alikegahered o discuss how hey could work ogeher o address he issue o gun vio-

    lence in heir communiies. As mayors, hey were he eleced ofcials who he public held

    responsible or crime, and as mayors, hey were expeced o solve problems raher han jus

    endlessly debae hem. Ta day hose 15 mayors, led by New York Ciy Mayor Michael

    Bloombergnow an independen bu hen a epublicanand Boson Mayor om

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    4 Center or American Progress | 9 Reasons Why Progress on Stronger Gun Laws Is Within Reach

    Menino (D), ormed a coaliion ocused on sharing bes pracices o comba gun crime

    and collecively advocaing or acion in Washingon. Seven years laer Mayors Agains

    Illegal Guns has grown o almos 1,000 mayors wih 1.5 million grassroos supporers, and

    oday i represens he leading organizaion in he gh or sronger gun laws.22

    Likewise, survivors o gun violence have become ar more organized. Former

    ep. Gabby Giords (D-AZ) and her husband Mark Kelly ormed Americans oresponsible Soluions o advocae or sronger gun laws and cones he 2014 elecions.

    And in he wake o Newown, aeced amilies have organized, come ogeher, and been

    among he mos eecive advocae

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