Has the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre shifted the gun control paradigm? It certainly looks that way. The outcry for tougher gun laws is reaching a fever pitch.
But it may not be that easy.
The debate over guns has been paralyzed since 1994. That was when gun owners came out in massive numbers and shocked the political world by giving Republicans control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. They were seeking retribution for the Brady handgun control bill and the assault weapons ban passed by the Democratic Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
Since 1994, Democrats have not dared challenge the status quo on guns. Especially since the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the Constitution protects an individual’s right to own a firearm. President Barack Obama rarely mentioned gun control in the 2008 or 2012 presidential campaigns. New gun control laws have never been high on his policy agenda.
Now, in the wake of public outrage over the Connecticut shooting of 20 first-graders, we’re hearing terms like “tipping point” and “game changer.” Democrats who have been strong supporters of gun rights, including Joe Manchin (W. Va.), Mark Warner (Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), are calling for “a new conversation” about guns in this country.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent and a strong gun-control advocate, warned that if Washington fails to pass new gun control legislation, it will be “a stain upon our nation.”