The Divided State(s) of Gun Control

It is the Chinese water torture of a series of mass shootings that are happening more rapidly and are growing more deadly.” Mayors Against Illegal Weapons director Mark Glaze used this grim analogy while commenting on the effect the Naval Yard shootings will have on the national conversation about gun control. Many political commentators are reaching similar conclusions. The tragedy that took place on September 16th involved assault weapons, civilians, and a mentally disturbed attacker: it will inevitably impact the wider conversation about the availability of guns in America. But spectators of the gun control debate are also reacting to the Navy Yard tragedy with the demoralizing recognition that immediate effects are unlikely.

The Sandy Hook tragedy of last December, which resulted in 20 children and six adult victims of a shooter, precipitated a moderate piece of federal legislation that expanded backgrounds checks. The bill failed in Congress, falling short by six votes. The President addressed the outcome of such vote with a scathing condemnation. Few believe the Navy Yard shootings will trigger fresh efforts for federal legislation.

While Sandy Hook caused outrage across the nation, the most recent instance of gun violence has met a more muted response. Many commentators appear concerned that American people are too jaded to create a groundswell of support for further gun control reform. In his eulogy for the victims, President Obama emphasized that, “I’m here today to say that there’s nothing routine about this tragedy. Nothing routine about your loss.”

If Congressional change is out of reach at the moment, what is the future of gun control reform? Will Americans continue to endure this “Chinese water torture,” or will we find an alternative?

Interestingly enough, it seems some states already have. What has become a footnote in many reports on the Navy Yard shootings is the flurry of gun control legislation passed in state legislatures this spring. New York and California approved some of the strictest gun control legislation in the country, New York only one month after Newton. Among other measures, both states expanded bans on assault weapons and New York now requires health care workers to notify health officials if they believe a patient plans to harm others. Universal background checks have been approved by legislatures in Connecticut, Colorado, Denver, as well as New York; Maryland approved a reform package that includes a requirement that people submit fingerprints when registering for a handgun.

In contrast to aforementioned – and predominantly blue – states’ legislation, a handful of states have passed measures expanding gun owners’ rights. Conceal and carry laws were relaxed in Missouri, Arkansas, North Dakota, Kansas and Utah this year. Additionally, several states eased laws on school safety officials carrying arms.

The divergent legislative action of states may give pause to gun control advocates: according to the Washington Post, there are fewer restrictions on guns than there were a year ago. In spite of this, the state action that I have chronicled makes abundantly clear that gun control is an issue intimately related to location and therefore an issue that is more appropriately handled at the state level. Gun culture across the United States is as diverse as its citizens. Gun control legislation should reflect the gun culture and the safety concerns of individual communities, just consider the vastly different perspectives on firearms an urban New Yorker would have in comparison to an Alaskan who has hunted recreationally since childhood.

State legislation appears to be the most viable strategy for gun control reform in the near future. Thanks to Michael Bloomberg, however, advocates for federal level reform may not need to wait long for a second shot at Congress. Now that the Mayor of New York City is out of work he’s creating a gun control interest group organization to rival the NRA.


  • “The most recent instance of gun violence”…where white people were killed you mean. There was another high profile shooting in (surprise) Chicago soon after that went largely ignored by gun control advocates. I can only assume that the scant coverage was because it completely discredited the narrative that gun control legislation has any positive affect at all on violent crime.

    I agree with one thing though. Leave it up to the states. Just don’t be surprised when the states who choose gun control start complaining that it’s not working and pointing fingers just like NYC does.

  • – “The tragedy that took place on September 16th involved assault weapons”

    Ignorance like yours is a poor basis for public policy commentary. The Navy yard shooter used a pump-action shotgun (one of the most popular hunting arms in history), and a pistol he took off a victim he ambushed.

    The stupidity of clamoring for “expanded background checks” as a response to shootings carried out with firearms that were legally purchased following…a background check…couldn’t be more obvious.

    And “Newton” was an English mathematician (and a tasty cookie), not a city in Connecticut. That was “Newtown”.

  • As another commenter mentioned, there was NO “assault” weapon used in the Navy yard shooting, only a pump shotgun and handgun. Please correct your article.

    • You can’t expect them to let facts get in the way of a poorly written article.

      It goes against the agenda and is less interesting.

  • “The tragedy that took place on September 16th involved assault weapons, civilians, and a mentally disturbed attacker”

    Assault weapons??? Maybe you should get your damn facts right and understand that the psycho used a pump action shotgun and subsequently handguns he stole off of guards. I guess this fact is hard to admit when you have an agenda of civilian disarmament propagated by CNN and the MSM. CNN among other mass media outlets deliberately lied that an AR15 was used to attempt to advance their agenda… downright disgusting.

  • The gun control group being created by Mayor Bloomberg is a parody of the image of the NRA created by the anti-rights groups.

    The NRA has five million members. The Bloomberg group, maybe a hundred thousand, if you include everybody that sent in an email address. The NRA is funded by grass roots contributions sent in small denominations, overwhelmingly bypeople who pay to be members. The Bloomberg group is funded by a multi-billionaire. The NRA generally has been pushed to be more politically active by its membership. Bloomberg pushes his “members” to become active.

  • California’s laws will be struck down, as will New York’s.

    You people are hell-bent on ignoring SCOTUS precedent, which, collectively (U.S. v. Cruikshank, U.S. v. Miller, D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago), proscribe the things you insist “should” be done.

    Since the SCOTUS only considers narrow issues, it will take awhile, but the most egregious of those states’ laws will meet their doom.

  • By continually repeating the lie that George Zimmerman stalked and murdered Trayvon Martin, the mainstream media has convinced everyone not familiar with the actual facts that Zimmerman got away with murder. Is the Brown Political Review attempting to do the same thing by claiming that the Washington Navy Yard shootings involved an assault weapon? The shooter used a common ordinary pump shotgun, and a handgun taken from one of the victims. The only “assault weapons” involved were used by the good guys in taking him down.

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