With the murder rate less than half what it was two decades ago, and violent crime down even more in that time, gun control has declined as a political issue.
But New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a gun control advocate, heard the familiar in Obama’s initial response, despite the striking emotion.
“Not enough,” Bloomberg said of Obama’s words. “We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership—not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today.”
The Newtown shooter brought three guns into the school, and the weapons were registered to his slain mother, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss information with reporters and spoke on condition of anonymity. The official said a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols, and a .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle were found in the school after the attack, and a fourth weapon was recovered outside.
One certainty in the weeks to come is that both parties in Washington will carefully watch public opinion on gun control and the Second Amendment, and whether any impact lasts.
Opposition to stricter laws has proved resilient. Firearms are in one-third or more of households, and suspicion runs deep of an overbearing government whenever it proposes expanding federal authority.
It’s an issue with particular relevance for campus officials. Last year, Oregon became the latest state to allow guns on campus. And in March, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld a state law allowing those with concealed weapons to carry them on campus, despite the protests of campus officials.
“One thing more than 30 years in law enforcement has taught me is that any guns on campus are best left in the hands of trained professionals,” says Patrick Fiel, public safety advisor for ADT Security Services and a former executive director of school security for the Washington, D.C., Public Schools. “It’s a nightmare to think of arriving at a crowded campus quad with several shooters and having to pick out the bad guys from the good guys.”
The argument of gun-rights advocates that firearm ownership is a bedrock freedom as well as a necessary option for self-defense has proved persuasive enough to dampen political enthusiasm for substantial change.
In July, a gunman opened fire on Aurora, Colo., theatergoers watching the Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” killing 12 people. The next month, an Associated Press-National Constitution Center poll found that 49 percent of Americans felt laws limiting gun ownership infringe on the right to bear arms, while only 43 percent said such laws do not infringe on those rights.