Political Momentum For Gun Control Measures Appears To Be Stalling

The post-Newtown momentum for gun control has slowed significantly.


In the immediate aftermath of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and for some time thereafter, it seemed as if there might have been a shift in the political winds in the United States when it comes to gun control. Polls showed higher than previously reported public support for proposals such as an “Assault Weapons” ban,  universal background checks, restrictions on the sale of magazines, and other related items that have basically languished in the political background for the better part of a decade. In the immediate aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, though, both the President and Members of Congress began push forward. The Senate Judiciary Committee has held a number of hearing on the issue of gun control, many of them including victims of gun violence such as Gabby Giffords and the families of the Newtown victims.  The denouement  and the highlight, of President Obama’s State Of The Union Address was an appeal to Congress to bring the various gun control proposals to a final vote, something that the House GOP leadership has yet to fully commit to. Add to all this the fact that National Rifle Association, the primary fun rights organization to get coverage in the wake of Newtown, has run an absolutely pathetic public relations campaign, and it seems as though all of the momentum is on the side of gun control advocates.

As National Journal notes today, though, political reality is starting to set in, and the prospects for any significant gun control legislation is looking more and more dim:

At the start of this year, pressure was building for stricter gun laws with the country still in shock over the tragic shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. President Obama and gun-control advocates in Congress were ready to move quickly on legislation. Now, strong Republican opposition and a loss of momentum are putting the proposals at risk.

There is no singular, comprehensive gun-control bill before Congress. Worried that even one unpopular proposal could sink an entire legislative package, Democrats broke up the measure into different pieces.

Take the assault-rifle ban, a proposal authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who successfully championed a measure in the 1990s that has since expired. In several of the recent gun tragedies in the United States, assault rifles or weapons with extended ammunition magazines were used—from Aurora to Newtown.

Feinstein’s bill bans 2,000 specifically named firearms and high-capacity magazines, and the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to pass the legislation along party lines and send it to the Senate floor.

Still, the legislation’s chances of passing are now slim, despite the impassioned pleas from lawmakers and people connected to gun violence. Feinstein invited some of those advocates to a Capitol Hill hearing on Wednesday where they gave emotional testimonies about the impact of gun violence on communities across the country.

This isn’t entirely surprising, of course.

For one thing, even at the height of the public attention that as being paid to gun issues in the wake of Newtown, it was incredibly unlikely that any kind of “Assault Weapons” ban would make it through Congress. For one thing, there’s the Republican majority in the House to contend with, and the fact that odds that the House Leadership will let a bill containing gun ban come to a vote on the floor are exceedingly low. For another, it’s not even clear how much Democratic support there would be for such a bill. While pro-gun Democrats like Joe Manchin have said that there were open to some ideas such as expanded background checks and possibly even restricting the size of magazines for certain guns, these Senators have expressed extreme skepticism about the kind of ban that Feinstein’s legislation contemplates. Additionally, there are a number of Democratic Senators up for re-election in red states won by Mitt Romney in 2012. For obvious reasons, it’s likely that these Senators will be reluctant to put their names on legislation likely to be unpopular in their home states. So, politically, the forces are very much against the kind of legislation that Feinstein is putting forward.

The other factor at work here is simple political inertia and the reality of voter’s attention spans. In the immediate aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, there was much public attention paid to the issue of gun violence and, given the circumstances of the shootings, there was understandable public support for the idea of doing “something” to avert a future tragedy.  As time fades, the amount of attention paid to the issue is naturally going to diminish, as will the sense of urgency that something needs to be done. At the same time, the passage of time gives supporters of gun rights more time to organize their forces to oppose whatever legislation may end up being proposed and put to a vote. For that reason, it’s entirely possible that we’ll end 2013, if not the entire 113th Congress, without a single significant piece of gun legislation becoming law.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Guns and Gun Control, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. C. Clavin says:

    Based on the record…if you say it’s stalling…I expect it to pass soon.

  2. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    I don’t think anyone but the most deluded thought gun control would be solved in a single Congressional session – especially with a Congress as dysfunctional as this one.

    Realists knew any changes would be incremental. And Obama, being a realist, seized opportunities around the margins. Check the list of his 23 executive orders – these are a big deal. I really like No. 14:

    Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

    Know why I like it? Because the NRA had its Congressional puppets fight that tooth and nail. Simply more knowledge about gun violence scared the NRA.
    But that’s changed, and America’s going to be a better nation for it.

  3. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Sun rises in east.

    It’s tough even for loopy types to get all excited about “gun control” when a young girl performs at the inauguration, goes back home to the strict “gun control” city of Chicago, then almost immediately gets shot to death. Even liberals can connect those dots. Well, mostly, that is.

    You want to know the most amazing irony with all of this? If the extreme left in the media-academe-Democrat cabal (BIRM) wasn’t so stark raving nuts there would be the ability to cut a decent legislative deal.

    The starting point would be to preempt and eliminate all state and local restrictions of every type and form in exchange for one reasonable national waiting and background check period on new commercial private firearms sales. Both sides would benefit. Plus a few other no brainer items, e.g., elimination of third-party liability claims against gun merchants. At the end of the day even Congress could put together a good package that would gain overwhelming bi-partisan support. It’s not rocket science.

    Fat chance, however. You’d have a better shot at getting all the trust fund money out of Malibu and Tiburon.

  4. bill says:

    maybe they realize the people who do these killings are the ones that are already breaking the law by having guns? it was just the admin trying to show that they care, even though they couldn’t actually accomplish anything- broken record at this point but wth, keeps them in the news.
    of course clueless joe’s ramblings were great, “get a shotgun”! priceless, especially after that wacky arab blew away 3 peeps in socal that day with a shotgun…….who would thunk it?
    wonder what the next “crisis” will be that entails such inane posturing?

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy:

    I don’t think anyone but the most deluded thought gun control would be solved in a single Congressional session – especially with a Congress as dysfunctional as this one.

    I am unsure this country is capable of finding a solution to the gun violence we endure. When one side says the solution is more guns on the streets, I think all we can do is pray that they will go out in a blaze of glory with minimum casualties to the innocent. But then again, if there really was a god, they already would have.

  6. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    I share your uncertainty. But if I look at America’s past and then look at what is around me, the differences, in a positive direction, are unmistakable. We’re capable of finding a solution to gun violence – just need to be patient and persistent.

  7. For that reason, it’s entirely possible that we’ll end 2013, if not the entire 113th Congress, without a single significant piece of gun legislation becoming law.

    Maybe in DC……out here in the hinterland, it’s another story.

  8. JKB says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): Maybe in DC……out here in the hinterland, it’s another story.

    Yet, those Colorado legislators are now facing a possible recall.

    In NY, those legislators who do not enjoy NY City districts may also feel the wrath of voters. In any case, many in NY are promising non-compliance.

  9. @JKB:

    “Yet, those Colorado legislators are now facing a possible recall.”

    Where’d you hear that?

    I heard they were just getting death threats……

  10. anjin-san says:

    You’d have a better shot at getting all the trust fund money out of Malibu and Tiburon

    Quite a bit more trust fund $$ in Belvedere and Ross than in Tiburon, which is known more for nouveau riche, not old, money. But then you are more about slogans than facts.

  11. JKB says:
  12. @JKB: Well, well. Never heard of Colorado Accountability, but I did notice the article said “(T)he recall proponents face a difficult task.”

    I’m unfamiliar with McLachlan, but a Democrat from Durango, a pretty rural place with lots of log furniture and big Ram trucks? Suffice it to say he’s no Nancy Pelosi….

    My advice to any group seeking to recall this guy or any other Dem, forget it. Donate to Lois Tochtrop and Cheri Jahn, two Senate Dems who are skeptical of the bills or bucking up Ed Vigil, a House Dem who voted against the bills.

    At any rate, the Senate’s hearing the bills on Monday, and there’s 7 of them. Chances are some of them will fail, but it’s almost assured that some of them will pass.

    Even if the headlines from DC continue to read “Congress deadlocked into inactivity” the headlines in the Denver Post will read “Gun Control Bills Pass Senate, Signed by Governor.”

  13. JKB says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb):

    And come next election, we’ll see how that works out for them. The Dems in ’94 found other things to do after their vote.

    Plus, Magpul has moved all Colorado customers to the front of the order line. Those customers will be receiving a rush on their magazine orders.

    We are proud to announce that within a matter of days we will be going live with a new program. Due to a bill currently moving through the Colorado legislature, there is the possibility that Colorado residents’ ability to purchase standard capacity magazines will soon be infringed. Before that happens, and Magpul is forced to leave the state in order to keep to our principles, we will be doing our best to get standard capacity PMAGs into the hands of any Colorado resident that wants them.

  14. Just nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): Recall by other means?

  15. @JKB:

    “And come next election, we’ll see how that works out for them.”

    I’m sure they’ll be fine. Colorado’s a blue state now.

    I heard about that Magpul move. I’m sure they’ll get some orders out of it. Marketing drenched in political statement…..very clever.

  16. @Just nutha’ ig’rant cracker:

    “Recall by other means?”

    Like….a skiing accident.

    Better hurry!

  17. Jc says:

    A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

    Are the words above preventing us from passing sensible gun laws like we have in the past? Wow, such progess we have made…

  18. JKB says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb):

    Well, there you go. All good for the blue staters.

    I’ve seen reports by people in the hunting community of plans to avoid trips in Colorado. We’ll see if that materializes.

    Same with the firearms industry companies choosing not to sell to NY government entities in the future.

    Seems NY is already attempting to modify their gun ban to exempt TV and movie productions. Oops. Kill off a bunch of shows? I don’t remember if they got the exemption for law enforcement and magazine capacity through. Seems they didn’t think their gun bill through very much before going off half-cocked.

  19. Jc says:


    Kos gun fail VII. Always entertaining. Since we seriously will now never pass sensible gun laws, may as well embrace the future. I personally would like to get an RPG. I mean, I can keep it and bear it and carry it, would Scalia take it away from me? He obviously doesn’t get the Constitution, damnit.

  20. @JKB:

    “I’ve seen reports by people in the hunting community of plans to avoid trips in Colorado. We’ll see if that materializes”

    Shrug. It’s easy to avoid things. Besides, summer’s coming. It will be all mountain bikes, ‘biners, and music festivals soon. Come hunting season, the hunters will forget their grudge and then they’ll shrug too.

  21. Stonetools says:

    California , NY and Maryland have all passed significant gun safety legislation. But I guess they aren’t real America…

  22. JKB says:


    State Supreme Court wants NYS to show good cause that gun law is constitutional

    Not to mention, NYS has effectively deprived citizens of the 2nd Amendment rights since they require a magazine capacity that is not made and unavailable for citizens to buy. Not to mention, by permitting standard capacity magazines for police and the film industry, they are de facto demonstrating that those firearms with those magazines are in “common usage.”

  23. michael reynolds says:

    I said from Day 1 this would have to be a long-running hearts and minds campaign. And everyone was like, “No, this time it’ll be different and something will be done.”

    Something will be done, but it will be something small and largely symbolic.

    What is needed is something large and real. We need a sea change, not a couple of bits of compromise legislation. That means changing minds. That means a paradigm shift. It’s a propaganda job, not a legislative job.

  24. JKB says:

    Propaganda? Reality is moving things the other direction. In Oakland, CA, residents are setting up their own patrols and don’t bother calling the police who are proving unhelpful. Detroit is collapsing into bankruptcy as are many other smaller cities, especially in CA. This means reduced police services.

    Perhaps you’ll remember the basic function of government is “police powers”. When the government can’t meet this function, its legitimacy is in doubt.

    Even federally, the US government has shown itself to be incapable of maintaining border security, which is a fundamental responsibility.

    To paraphrase Clint Eastwood, If government can’t do its job, then its time to let it go.

  25. JKB says:

    Add to all this the fact that National Rifle Association, the primary fun rights organization

    BTW, Doug, outstanding freudian slip.

    Fits nicely with Feinstein’s unnecessary “personal pleasures”

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:


    If government can’t do its job, then its time to let it go.

    JKB just came out of the anarchist closet.

  27. superdestroyer says:

    I have been surprised that more conservatives have not pointed out how the government wants to design a system that requires the government to say yes for individuals to be able to own or purchase guns and then elected politicians who will always say no.

    Maryland is pushing for a system that requires fingerprints for gun owners but then the state government will design a system where it is impossible to have one’s fingerprints taken and submitted to the state. That means no gun sales and no gun owners.

    What I find the oddest is that all of the liberals on MSNBC keep saying that no one is gong to take everyone’s guns and that people will be allowed to own weapons while forgetting that all of the liberal Amicus Briefs in the Heller decisions that argued that people have no individual rights to own weapons and that states can ban weapons if they want to.

  28. JKB says:


    So….you advocate to keep a failed government because a failed, corrupt government is better than no government at all? What about reforming a government that gets back to basics?

  29. @JKB: If you want to lament a “failed government,” then don’t vote Republican.

  30. michael reynolds says:

    JKB and superdestroyer are both longing for that long-promised race war. Hillbillies shooting down negroes n’ hippies. Then the gubmint’ll work, by gum.

    This is not exactly a surprise.

  31. al-Ameda says:

    Gun Control is, in this country, a mirage.

    It’s somewhat analogous to seeing a periodic “Palestinian-Israeli conflict resolution talks” headline …. for the 1000th time in 64 years. Nothing substantive ever comes of it.

    We have a very strong cult of gun ownership in this country, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. Me? I’d like to see guns regulated like automobiles – registration, insurance requirements. But then again, I’d like to have a date with Charlize Theron – it is not going to happen.

  32. JKB says:

    @al-Ameda: like automobiles – registration, insurance requirements

    Guns are regulated like automobiles in most states. If you wish to move one about in operable condition on public thoroughfares you must have a permit from the state. You can buy insurance to cover accidents but those are so rare that it isn’t required. Intentional misuse is not covered by insurance and is interdicted by the police. Intentional use may or may not be covered but the liability still remains, unless the injury to the other party is justifiable as self defense.

    Just like autos, those that are not operated on public roads do not require registration or insurance. But they can still be kept and operated on your own property or other private property and they can be transported over public roads in an inoperable condition. Actually, firearms in a manner that would require the removal of the engine from the vicinity if applied to autos.