States push for more gun controls

While Obama pushes for stronger federal gun control, some governors and state legislatures are considering their own initiatives.

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposes sweeping new gun control laws in New York on Wednesday, other governors and state legislatures are considering their own new regulations following the Newtown, Conn., shooting that killed 20 children.

These politicians will find themselves fighting against a steady tide of pro-gun legislation that has gone into place during the past decade.

In several states, politicians are proposing heavier taxes on ammunition and more stringent screening processes for gun buyers with mental illnesses, though none of these measures extend as far as what Cuomo was expected to introduce at his State of the State address Wednesday afternoon. The governor, The New York Times reports, is seeking expansive changes to the current New York gun laws, including increasing the types of assault weapons banned, expanding mental health checks for gun buyers, lowering magazine capacity limits and requiring periodic gun permit recertification.

Elsewhere in the United States, gun control chatter has been loud in state senates and assemblies - but softer at the gubernatorial level. A few governors, however, have shifted toward more firearm control.

Maryland’s Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley announced in December that restriction proposals would be forthcoming from his administration, including bans on long guns and pistols with magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Additionally, O’Malley and a team of Democratic state senators are pushing for more thorough screening of gun buyers with mental illnesses.

After James Holmes allegedly killed 12 people in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater in July of last year, Colorado Gov. John W. Hickenlooper (D.) publicly stated that he would not respond to the incident with more gun restrictions. The governor’s tune changed after Newtown, however. He told the AP in December that the “time is right” for gun control.

Related: Know your state's gun laws

“Do we all need assault weapons?” Hickenlooper asked during his interview with the AP. The governor and his state’s legislature are expected to consider new laws that ban certain types of weapons, large magazine sizes, and possession on college campuses.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Michigan Gov. Tim Snyder, a Republican, vetoed a law in December that would have afforded certain gun owners the right to carry concealed weapons in public places, though Snyder insisted his decision came down to disagreements with the details of the law and did not stem from public pressure following the Newtown shooting.

In Connecticut, where the Newtown massacre occurred, state Sen. Beth Bye has introduced a comprehensive gun control package that would not only limit access to high-powered weapons and ammunitions, but also require all Connecticut gun owners to register their weapons in the state by model and serial number. Bye’s bills also propose a 50 percent tax on the sale of ammunitions and a limit on the amount of bullets an owner can purchase.

For Bye, the Newtown massacre hit close to home. The senator is close friends with Nelba Marquez-Greene, who lost her 6-year-old daughter Ana in the shooting.

"I just feel a personal mandate," Bye told Reuters about gun legislation. “We're only going to have one opportunity in Connecticut to do something like this. I want to take this opportunity and make sure we do something significant."

In Virginia, where 23-year-old Virginia Tech student Seung Hui Cho killed 32 students and faculty members in 2007, House of Delegates Speaker William Howell, a Republican, told the media that his state's General Assembly is likely to review laws on restricting gun rights to the mentally ill. Virginia, however, failed to turn any of a task force’s recommendations into laws following the 2007 shooting.

While Illinois Democrats push ammunition limits through committee and politicians in Minnesota consider similar firearms constraints, history shows that legislatures and judges have actually increased gun rights in the past decade, even when faced with the backlash of a mass shooting.

Virginia is known as one of the most relaxed states when it comes restoring the gun rights of mentally ill citizens. A 2011 New York Times exposé discovered that some recuperated patients were allowed to regain their gun rights simply by writing a letter to the state, sometimes just weeks after they’d left a state-run facility. According to ProPublica, Virginia has also repealed laws that prohibited the purchase of more than one handgun per month and required fingerprints as part of a concealed weapons permit application.

In Arizona, following the shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, by gunman Jared Loughner, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer passed a bill prohibiting the state’s Game and Fish Commission from limiting magazine capacity on weapons approved for hunting.

More recently, in December 2012, Ohio passed a bill to allow guns in cars in its statehouse garage, while a federal appeals court struck down a law that banned concealed weapons in Illinois, according to The Boston Globe.


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