2013: The Year We Learned Gun Reform Is Impossible

The urgency wrought by 2012’s horrors yielded no tighter firearm restrictions from Congress.

Rabbi Andy Bachman (2nd R) participates in a protest outside Cerberus Capital Management, a financial firm that holds a majority stake in Freedom Group, a company that produces assault rifles, to call on them to divest in Freedom Group, on December 9, 2013 in New York City.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
Add to Briefcase
Dustin Volz
Dec. 10, 2013, 9:15 a.m.

Noth­ing in 2013 matched the hor­ror of Sandy Hook or Au­rora, but the year proved to be a dis­pir­it­ing one for gun-con­trol cru­saders hop­ing to cap­it­al­ize on the in­tense out­pour­ing of grief wrought by 2012’s shoot­ing mas­sacres.

After New­town, Pres­id­ent Obama gave an im­pas­sioned speech prom­ising to do everything in his power to pre­vent “more tra­gedies like this.” We’d watched these scenes of pub­lic mourn­ing be­fore — after Tuc­son, after Au­rora — but it was dif­fer­ent this time. Obama’s bold de­clar­a­tion that “we are not do­ing enough and we will have to change” seemed more force­ful than be­fore. And com­ing just six weeks after his reelec­tion, it seemed more pos­sible.

But once the Na­tion­al Rifle As­so­ci­ation and oth­ers got a whiff of any ser­i­ous threat to fire­arm freedoms, they moneyed up. Al­though gun-con­trol groups spent five times as much on fed­er­al lob­by­ing in 2013 as they did in 2012, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by the Sun­light Found­a­tion, gun-rights groups out­paced them by more than 7-to-1.

As usu­al, the NRA’s ef­forts paid off. Watered-down le­gis­la­tion that would have ex­pan­ded back­ground checks failed in the Sen­ate this past spring, and the is­sue re­took its place in Con­gress as a per­en­ni­al non­starter.

And the shoot­ings con­tin­ued.

But Con­gress de­livered gun-re­form ad­voc­ates one fi­nal 2013 dis­ap­point­ment this week. The Sen­ate on Monday voted to re­new the Un­detect­able Fire­arms Act just hours be­fore the 25-year-old law was set to ex­pire. The 10-year ex­ten­sion, which even the Na­tion­al Rifle As­so­ci­ation en­dorsed, is largely gen­teel. It keeps on the books a ban on fire­arms that can sneak through met­al de­tect­ors, but ef­forts by Sen. Chuck Schu­mer, D-N.Y., to close what he called a “dan­ger­ous loop­hole” al­low­ing a per­son to use 3-D print­ing tech­no­logy to craft a plastic gun failed to get off the ground. Schu­mer wanted to amend the law to re­quire that fire­arms have per­man­ent met­al pieces in them.

Gun-con­trol ad­voc­ates have seen some move­ment out­side of Con­gress. In Septem­ber, Star­bucks CEO Howard Schultz de­clared guns un­wel­come in his stores, even in states with open-carry laws. Col­or­ado’s State House passed stricter gun laws, though mem­bers did so at great polit­ic­al per­il. Con­necti­c­ut ad­op­ted some of the strict­est in the na­tion, des­pite be­ing home to sev­er­al gun man­u­fac­tur­ers. And Obama did pass a num­ber of ex­ec­ut­ive or­ders that make small in­roads, such as re­strict­ing the im­port of mil­it­ary sur­plus weapons and or­der­ing fed­er­al agen­cies to share more data with the back­ground-check sys­tem.

But na­tion­al law­makers in 2013 did what they do every year when it comes to tight­en­ing gun re­stric­tions: noth­ing.

“It should be a source of great em­bar­rass­ment to the U.S. Sen­ate and House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives that we have not moved the ball for­ward one inch when it comes to the is­sue of pro­tect­ing the thou­sands of people all across this coun­try who are killed by guns every year,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., be­fore Monday’s vote of the Un­detect­able Fire­arms Act, which passed by un­an­im­ous con­sent.

2012’s gun vi­ol­ence brought us un­pre­ced­en­ted grief. But 2013 re­minded us just how im­possible it is to move that ball for­ward. If a de­ranged man killing 20 kids and six teach­ers at an ele­ment­ary school won’t prompt mean­ing­ful gun re­form, it’s hard to ima­gine what will.

What We're Following See More »
PLAN C?
Senate Looks to Pass “Skinny Repeal” Then Negotiate with House
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"Senate GOP leaders picked up support Wednesday for their plan to pass a scaled-back bill to repeal a handful of elements in the current health law, and then open negotiations with House Republicans to try to bring together their two very different bills."

Source:
“CLEAN REPEAL”
Senate Votes Down Repeal without Replace
1 days ago
THE LATEST
TURNED OVER NOTES
Manafort Testifies in Closed Session
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Paul Manafort, who served as a top aide to President Trump’s 2016 campaign, on Tuesday provided congressional investigators notes he took during a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer that has emerged as a focus in the investigation of Russian interference in the election. Manafort’s submission, which came as he was interviewed in a closed session by staff members for the Senate Intelligence Committee, could offer a key contemporaneous account of the June 2016 session."

Source:
PENCE BREAKS THE TIE
Senate Will Debate House Bill
2 days ago
THE LATEST

By the narrowest of margins, the Senate voted 51-50 this afternoon to begin debate on the House's legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins defected from the GOP, but Vice President Pence broke a tie. Sen. John McCain returned from brain surgery to cast his vote.

Source:
MURKOWSKI, COLLINS VOTE NAY
Republicans Reach 50 Votes to Proceed on Health Bill
2 days ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login