States divided over gun control, even as mass shootings rise

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington Governor Jay Inslee was quick to respond to this week’s carnage at a Texas elementary school, sending out a tweet listing the gun control measures taken by the government. state controlled by Democrats. He ended with: “Your turn Congress.”

But gun control measures are likely going nowhere in Congress, and they have also become increasingly rare in most states. Aside from several Democratic-controlled states, the majority have either taken no action on gun control in recent years or taken aggressive steps to expand gun rights.

This is because they are either politically controlled by Republicans who oppose gun restrictions or are politically divided leading to a stalemate.

“Here I’m in a position where I can do something, I can introduce legislation, and yet knowing that it’s almost certainly not going anywhere is a feeling of helplessness,” said Sen. Greg Leding, a Democrat. of the GOP-controlled Arkansas Legislature. He has lobbied unsuccessfully for red flag laws that would allow authorities to remove firearms from those determined to be a danger to themselves or others.

After Tuesday’s massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 students and two teachers dead, Democratic governors and lawmakers across the country have made impassioned pleas to Congress and their own legislatures. to enact gun restrictions. Republicans have primarily called for more efforts to tackle mental health and strengthen protections in schools, such as adding security guards.

Among them is Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who has repeatedly spoken out about youth mental health issues and said tougher gun laws in places like New York and California are ineffective. . In Tennessee, GOP Rep. Jeremy Faison tweeted that the state should have security guards “in all of our schools,” but held back from promising to introduce legislation in the US legislative session. next year: “Evil exists and we must protect the innocent from it. Faison said.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has repeatedly clashed with the GOP-controlled legislature over gun laws. He called for the passage of universal background checks and “red flag” laws, which will be ignored by Republicans. Earlier this year, the Democrat vetoed a Republican bill that would have allowed concealed carry permit holders to have firearms in vehicles on school grounds and in churches located on the grounds of a private school.

“We can’t allow gun violence to happen,” Evers said in a tweet. “We cannot accept that children can go to school and never come home. We cannot accept the outright refusal of elected officials to act.

On Wednesday, a day after the shooting in Texas, legislative Democrats called for Wisconsin’s gun safety bills to be taken up, apparently to no avail. Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos did not return messages asking for their response.

Governor Ned Lamont and state troopers view dozens of assault weapons, rifles and handguns displayed on a table prior to a press conference at the Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory in Meriden, Connecticut on 14 April 2022.

Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP, file

In Pennsylvania, an effort by Democratic lawmakers Wednesday in the GOP-controlled legislature to ban the possession, sale or manufacture of large-capacity semi-automatic firearms failed, as House Republicans posted their firm opposition to gun restrictions. The GOP-majority Legislature has rejected calls from Democratic governors over the past two decades to tighten gun control laws, including taking measures such as expanding background checks or limiting the number of handgun purchases a person can make in a month.

The situation is similar in Michigan, which has a Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled legislature. On Wednesday, state Senate Democrats were thwarted in their efforts to advance a raft of bills that would require gun owners to lock up their guns and keep them away from minors.

“Every day we don’t act, we choose guns over kids,” said Democratic Senator Rosemary Bayer, whose district includes a high school where a teenager was charged with a shooting that killed four people in November and whose parents are accused of manslaughter, accused of not having locked away his weapon. “Enough is enough. No more prayers, no more thoughts, no more inaction.

Republican Senator Ken Horn responded by calling for a discussion of other potential causes of gun violence.

“I would just like to point out that there are political solutions, but there are just as many spiritual solutions,” he said. “We don’t know what’s really going on in this world, what’s going on in this country, what’s happening to young men.”

Florida stands out as a Republican-controlled state that has taken action. The 2018 shooting at a Parkland high school that left 14 students and three staff members dead prompted lawmakers to pass a law with a red flag provision that allows law enforcement to ask a court to confiscate the weapons to a person considered a threat.

People hold signs during a protest at the Capitol in Austin, Texas on May 25, 2022, after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde.
People hold signs during a protest at the Capitol in Austin, Texas on May 25, 2022, after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde.

Jay Janner / American Statesman from Austin via AP

Democrats now want that expanded to allow family members or roommates to make the same claim in court, but there has been little appetite among Republicans to change the law. Instead, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said he wants lawmakers to allow people to carry handguns without a license. The state currently requires a concealed weapons license.

While Republicans have backed red flag laws in some other states, most gun control legislation in recent years has been in Democratic-led states.

In Washington state, the governor signed a package of bills earlier this year addressing gun magazine limits, ghost guns and adding locations where guns are prohibited, including ballot counting sites.

On Wednesday in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom and top Democratic legislative leaders pledged to expedite gun legislation, identifying a dozen bills they expect to pass this year. Newsom highlighted a bill that would allow private citizens to enforce a ban on assault weapons by filing lawsuits — similar to a Texas law that bans most abortions through civil enforcement.

Oregon’s democratically controlled legislature has passed bills that require background checks, ban guns on public school grounds, allow guns to be taken from those who pose a risk, and guarantee a safe storage of firearms. On Wednesday, a group of six Democrats said more needed to be done after the mass shooting in Texas and the racially motivated massacre in Buffalo, New York. They pledged to take additional action next year.

“We ran for office to solve big problems and improve the lives of our constituents – and that includes taking on the gun lobby and the politicians who place profit and political power over the lives of children” , they said in a joint statement.

But there are limits even in some Democratic-controlled states, underscoring the challenge of building consensus to tackle the growing frequency of mass shootings in the United States.

Rhode Island has passed restrictions in recent years, including moves to ban guns from schoolyards and close the ‘buy straw’ loophole that had allowed people to buy guns on fire for someone else. But bills that would ban high-capacity ammunition magazines and assault weapons were defeated in committee, in part because the majority Democratic chamber includes many lawmakers who opposed the measures, citing their support for the second amendment.

In Connecticut, gun violence legislation backed by both parties soon followed after 20 children and six staff members were fatally shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. But additional gun control measures to fire have been blocked this year in the Democratic-led General Assembly, largely. in part because of a short legislative session and threats by Republicans to delay legislation through a filibuster.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday he was unsure whether he would call a special session on the bills. They would impose limits on bulk gun purchases and require registration of so-called ghost guns, untraceable guns that can be assembled at home.

“I think it’s become an incredibly partisan argument right now in our society,” Lamont said. “It wasn’t like that, you know, 30, 40 years ago. So it’s disturbing, even in a state like Connecticut, where after Sandy Hook we had strong bipartisan support.

DeMillo reported from Little Rock, Arkansas. Associated Press reporters from across the United States contributed to this report.


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