For many Americans, strict gun control has already arrived

A sign posted in Webster, NY, where a mentally ill man attacked firefighters. Photo from WXXI

If the last couple of weeks are any guide, America’s national culture of the gun is evolving in complicated and nuanced ways in the new era sparked by the deadly  mass-shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

It now appears likely that Congress will pass only the most modest legislation, perhaps making it slightly more difficult for people suffering a mental illness to buy a gun, and perhaps toughening the penalties for illegal gun trafficking.

The NRA and its supporters have rallied the vast majority of Republicans — and a fair number of Democrats — to oppose a more aggressive ban on assault rifles, a more comprehensive registry of firearm owners, or new restrictions on gun show sales.

But at the same time, a growing number of states are moving rapidly to place strict new limits on firearm ownership, led by a sweeping assault rifle ban in New York and by a wave of dozens of gun control bills that are expected to pass in California.

Late last month, a gun control advocate won a special election for a congressional seat in Illinois, where an assault rifle ban is moving through the state legislature.

Meanwhile, the courts — including the conservative-leaning US Supreme Court — have offered a complicated set of legal rulings that allow states to regulate firearms, so long as restrictions and guidelines don’t reach a certain threshhold.

(Exactly where that threshold lies, and which state laws violate the Constitution’s 2nd amendment, will be tested by a wave of additional court cases that will follow as new gun control measures are passed.)

These developments come as studies show that gun ownership continues to decline in America, down from 50 percent of households around 1970s to somewhere between 35 and 43 percent today.

So what does this all add up to?

Clearly, firearms are an important form of cultural and political expression for millions of Americans, many of whom see guns as necessary equipment for protecting themselves and their families.

And it appears that no consensus has formed nationally that would lead to sweeping Federal measures.  Even modest baby-step gun control efforts may, in fact, be DOA.

But on a state-by-state and city-by-city level, it appears that gun regulation and even fairly sharp restrictions on gun ownership will be a growing fact of life for a big chunk of the nation.

The states with the toughest gun control measures either now on the books or looking very likely to pass, post-Sandy Hook, are home to about 25% of the nation’s population.

This is a situation that isn’t likely to make anyone happy.

Gun advocates think the state laws are an encroachment on their civil liberties.  Gun control groups think it will be much harder to regulate guns effectively on a piecemeal basis.

In the near-to-mid-term, however, we may find ourselves living with yet another deep fault line running between more progressive “blue” states — which tend to be more urban — and more tradition-minded “red” states with larger rural populations.

States like California, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York may see fairly strict gun control become the new normal, and gun ownership continuing to decline.

Meanwhile, states like Florida, Kansas, North Dakota and Texas may continue to evolve toward an even more freewheeling, unfettered approach to guns — even more “military” style firearms — as has been the trend in recent years.

One final wrinkle, however, is the fierce internal division that exists within many of these states.

In urban Chicago and New York City, gun control is hugely popular.  In rural downstate Illinois and upstate New York, much less so.

So while the states move in different directions on firearms, experimenting with different rules and different approaches, the fault lines in the gun rights debate remain very close to home.





64 Comments on “For many Americans, strict gun control has already arrived”

  1. mervel says:

    One advantage to this approach is that it will allow us to really study what is effective and how widely varying laws between states have an impact or not.

    To me its also part of what makes us unique, people in North Dakota can go one way and people in New York another, to me it is a more Democratic and constitutional approach.

  2. dave says:

    “One advantage to this approach is that it will allow us to really study what is effective and how widely varying laws between states have an impact or not.”

    Already happening. Early findings: More laws = less deaths.

  3. Jim Bullard says:

    “Gun ownership continues to decline in America.”? That suggests that all (or most of) the recent spurts of gun sales are to people who already own guns, more guns in the hands of fewer people.

    One thing that strikes me about the implementation of gun control on a state or local basis is that it complicates the lives of gun owners if they want to go hunting in the a neighboring state or municipality where the rules are different. It would seem that a uniform set of rules would be preferable.

  4. Pete Klein says:

    Here is a thought that might be fun in the future.
    Maybe sometime in the future states with easy to buy and little or no control over the sale of guns could find themselves being sued by other states when it is determined that guns bought in those states (gun trafficking) were illegally brought into another state and used to commit a crime.

  5. Walker says:

    “…it will allow us to really study what is effective and how widely varying laws between states have an impact or not.”

    Mervel, that might work if we had border checkpoints between states. But as it is, a neighboring state’s lax laws or lax enforcement make New York’s more stringent laws far less effective than they would be if they were applied nationwide. You yourself have commented that you’d be buying your ammunition out of state from now on. How does that help New York “really study what is effective”?

  6. jeff says:

    I thought the following report prepared 3 months ago was interesting as it made several comparisons between metro areas and the cities they surrounded. It also presented some comparisons on homicides and suicides. I would expect the metro area to have a similar rate to the city but there is a significant difference. Does it infer that there are different factors in the cities that generate more gun violence? Afterall the guns have to flow through the metro area to get to the city.

    I found it interesting that Pittsburgh and the cities of the Ohio Valley had a similar ratios for homicides as New York City. (2006-2007 numbers). However firearm violence related deaths and firearm suicides were higher than NYC. Philadelphia, on the other side of Pennsylvania had lower homicide rates and lower suicide rates. Philly and Pittsburgh, same state, same laws.

  7. Walker says:

    “Does it infer that there are different factors in the cities that generate more gun violence?”

    It’s a good report, jeff, and I think it answers that question– “Whether looking at the state or metro level, we find strikingly consistent associations between gun violence and key markers of socio-economic disadvantage — poverty, income, education, class, and race. Of course, center cities bear the heaviest concentrations of such socio-economic disadvantage and we are likely to find even stronger associations and more magnified patterns there…”

    In other words gun laws are one part of situation. Poverty is another significant player. I imagine that the differences shown between different urban and surrounding suburban metro areas has a lot to do with the differences between metro areas with an intense core of urban poverty surrounded by relatively wealthy suburbs as opposed to areas where both the center city and the suburbs are blighted.

    In other words, laws matter, but they’re not the only things that matter.

  8. Paul says:

    “America’s national culture of the gun is evolving in complicated and nuanced ways ”

    “These developments come as studies show that gun ownership continues to decline in America, down from 50 percent of households around 1970s to somewhere between 35 and 43 percent today”

    Sound like the culture is evolving away from guns?

  9. Paul says:

    Almost nowhere in the media coverage of gun control is there a mention that gun related violence has been declining for decades. Brian M. is that not at all relevant to the discussion?

  10. Peter Hahn says:

    More people are moving to the cities where guns are useless except as tools for criminals.

  11. Paul says:

    “States like California, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York may see fairly strict gun control become the new normal, and gun ownership continuing to decline.”

    It sounds like CO may add background checks for private gun sales. Is that a “progressive blue state”?

  12. mervel says:

    Well it also depends on what we define as gun deaths and how we care. Gun deaths do not mean murders or assaults using guns. In fact states with higher rates of gun ownership in households have lower rates of violent gun crime in general and lower rates of murder and so forth specifically.

    So when we look at gun mortality we are not talking about Newtown, we are not talking about assaults and gun murders in a crime, we are really talking about suicide and accidents.

    So it is interesting, it depends on how you view the issue.

  13. mervel says:

    If we this is about preventing mass shooting incidents or about gun murder then without a doubt, gun laws in blue states are making no difference in that they have more of both.

  14. Walker says:

    Mervel, you’ve trotted that out before, but I don’t think it’s true in any meaningful sense. True, the states with the highest proportion of gun ownership are the ones with the lowest population density, and those low densities tend to result in less violent crime overall. It’s also true that “States with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence.” (Six facts about guns, violence, and gun control)

    And yes, you’re right, most gun deaths are not a result of mass shootings. But mass shootings are on the rise, and they are an especially cruel, random way to die. After all, a fair proportion of gun murders are between gang members and/or they involve drug turf wars– you could say that the participants have chosen to live and die by their guns. (Of course, this ignores those unlucky enough to be caught in the crossfire.) But the victims of mass shootings are typically random bystanders seemingly chosen by the killer just to fatten the body count. And New Town’s victims were the cruelest of all.

  15. mervel says:

    No not less violent crime overall but less violent crime per-capita.

  16. mervel says:

    What does gun related violence even mean if it is not a violent crime?

    Come on the fact is what we worry about is violent crime; and states with high gun ownership rates in general have low violent crime rates, on a per capita basis. We know that gun ownership rates in and of themselves have NO connection to violent crime. Now I certainly agree that the more guns are around the more gun deaths you may have due to suicide or accidents. This is an issue that we should look at I would agree.

    But this whole thing is farcical. We have a mass shooting and we pass strict laws not directed or targeted toward preventing the circumstances of the mass shooting. Frankly it looks simply political, which is fine but don’t act like it will have any impact on murders or mas shootings. As Brian points out it is simply another blue state-red state cultural issue.

  17. In Chicago there is more shootings despite strict gun laws, same with Syracuse NY………..Seems odd.

  18. Rob Ellison says:

    GO NEW YORK! We’ll live under stricter gun control only until the banning laws are overturned by the State or Federal Supreme court as unconstitutional. The reason the Federal selection of the new gun control laws doesn’t eliminate an assault weapon is, the federal legal pool already knows it would ultimately be appealed. A short win just to be overturned before the next election doesn’t bode well with election campaigns. @ Mervel, how could you call this a more Constitutional approach!?! it is the exact opposite of that and trust me only people from New York City and it’s surrounding counties are happy about this. The millions that live in Central and Upstate New York are furious. Let’s use New York for example, the main reason the safe act was supposedly drafted was to Identify Mental Health Threats and restrict the at risk from obtaining a weapon, close the “loophole” on private sales of firearms and naturally to ban a specific type of weapon. With that poor piece of legislation they are finding federal law is protecting (HIPPA) peoples medical information, as it should (so we won’t be incorporating that). Who is going to be the super genius who will be able to predict the future actions of all the people that fit into this category. We’ll implement a background check procedure, however they don’t know how the process will happen or how to fund it (more to follow ‘m sure), we implemented a magazine restriction (which does what exactly? Seven rounds vs. eight-thirty) multiple magazines makes that a mute point. Let’s not forget the assault weapon… Which is unconstitutional and will ultimately be over turned by a high court as it was at the federal level in. So to recap we will not do anything that will affect the Adam Lanza issues, you know mentally ill, didn’t legally own any weapons (he murdered his mother for them)… we plan on limiting weapons choices and magazine sizes for the millions of law abiding citizens (which by the way will not stop the criminals as they will not follow law) and somehow incorporate additional checks (once we figure out how to do it and pay for it). well if you think NY leads the way, we do… In Political stunts and circumventing the constitution… Let me remind everyone we live in a Constitutional Republic not a Democracy as many would like us to believe. This means the US Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land and protects the citizens rights. There has been no issue with the interpretation until modern times it was resolved as an individual right in 1778 (do some research) or did we all forget the whole country use to open carry… Might I remind us all, the only thing that comes from restricting a peoples liberties is Revolution. This is suppose to be the land of the free, not the government restricted ” isn’t that what we Declared in 1776″. People should be judged and punished if need be based on their individual actions, not perceived future actions or the actions of others…

  19. Rob Ellison says:

    … in 1996 sorry forgot the date.

  20. oa says:

    Might want to rethink this statement…
    “Adam Lanza issues, you know mentally ill, didn’t legally own any weapons (he murdered his mother for them)…
    Cops think the mom may have been buying guns for Lanza the whole time to indulge his hobby:

  21. Do you realize in ny state to even get a pistol permit you must go twenty one years with out committing a crime , get at least three character witnesses to refer you ,I think now pay for a training course,pay a permit fee that vary by county $150.00 at least I think,pay to be finger printed somewhere,buy a pistol and have a dealer hold it for you,and then wait months to be approved if this is your first pistol.thats the amount of infringement we already have been putting up with. Ny only allows concealed carry from what I can gather with some permits restricted and some not . It depends on who the issuing judge was when you got it and his political views. Now if you were to carry your gun covered by your coat and a certain number of centimeters of it show you could lose your permit and have all your pistols confiscated . Now as I outlined the ny pistol permit hold would qualify the definition of what it takes to be a certified good American. Ny wants these people unarmed because they think way in the future less guns will get into the hands if criminals. I think the city people want us all to hide from criminals and give up our own safety like they do . The reason rural areas are much safer us the guns.if you remove the only worry a criminal has you get murder rates like Chicago it’s not rocket science

  22. Paul says:

    “The reason rural areas are much safer (is) the guns.”


  23. LibertyNjustice 4ALL says:

    Froghamvoter…I actually provided 4 references, and then those 4 individuals had to provide 4 more references… WTF?? Approaching half a century old and over 2o some odd years in the military, and no criminal background. It is far easier to obtain a top secret military clearance than a pistol permit in St. Lawrence County. Richards has go to go, along with Cuomo! Chicago has implemented a no handgun ban, and they have the highest crime rate gun, violence in the nation.

  24. Paul says:

    On Miami Vice Don Johnson always did pretty well with his big handgun when he was up against the drug runners with machine guns!

    What is a “no handgun ban”? This ban on not having a handgun was a recipe for trouble! I know what you mean just kidding.

  25. Pete Klein says:

    Without going into the entire state rankings which do show a connection between gun ownership and death rates per 100,000 of the population, it does show the more guns, the more deaths.
    NYS is low on the gun ownership and gun related deaths. About 18% of the homes in NYS have at least one (1) gun and has a gun related death rate at about 5.1 per 100,000.
    Alaska has about 58% of the homes having at least one (1) gun and a gun related death rate of about 57,8 per 100,000.
    Florida has about 24.5% of the homes with at least one gun and has a gun related death rate of 24.5% per 100,000.
    I could go on but why bother when statistics show that on statewide averages, the more homes with guns, the more gun related deaths.

  26. Paul says:

    Since none of the ideas being floated supposedly have anything to do with the goal of a “gun free” home what is the point? Sure, guns are dangerous if poorly handled we know that, or if they are around you are more likely to shoot yourself if you are looking for an out. I don’t see any reason to spend any more money studying that issue.

  27. Paul says:

    In Alaska it is probably a good idea to have a loaded gun with you for a number of reasons. We don’t have to worry about a bear trying to eat us like they do. In Alaska the rate of “packing heat” to being eaten by a bear are probably inversely proportional. Just like they might be in some gang infested parts of the lower 48 for gang members.

  28. Peter Hahn says:

    If you have watched any James Bond movies you would realize that bad guys with machine guns cant hit anything, but a good guy with at handgun…

  29. Paul says:

    Peter, exactly, heck they can even take out a guy with a machine gun with the button of their suit jacket gun. Those can’t be legal in NYS?

  30. ROB says:

    OA I don’t have to rethink anyting…. If Adam stole her weapons after he killed her or with your point, she may have been buying them for him either way it would be illegal….. once agan criminals do not follow law! Even if our country were to get rid of every possible firearm every and maufacturer in the country, other nations criminals will be lining up to sell our criminals the same illegal weapons they use today and profit from it….. after spending Billions of Dollars many lives later have we stopped Drugs yet? NO, states are looking at making them legal….

  31. oa says:

    OK, Rob, you win. You win.
    (Backs away slowly, with hands in plain view…)

  32. Walker says:

    “…once agan criminals do not follow law!”

    So does this mean there’s no point in laws against drunk driving? You know, as in “if you outlaw drunk driving, only criminals will drive drunk.”

    I mean, gee, you’re right, criminals do not follow the law! Of course! So there’s no point in laws against anything! Criminals will just do bad stuff anyway! Wow! Think of all the money we can save by disbanding police forces, courts, jails, the whole nine yards! There goes the deficit right there! And we’ll all buy tons of guns and take the law into our own hands. What a country!

  33. Marlo Stanfield says:

    Walker, if we were trying to fight drunken driving by limiting the types of cars sober people can drive, your analogy might work.

  34. Walker says:

    Marlo, sounds like you’re in favor of an outright gun ban.

  35. Paul says:

    Walker, it actually sounds like maybe you are? I think he was being sarcastic.

    He has a good point. It is fair to have a law that makes the act of drunk driving illegal and if we catch you in the act of committing the crime you should be prosecuted and perhaps convicted, here we are trying to prevent the act before it happens, very different.

    Wish we could do it. Sounds like the issues with this kid in Newtown should focus on something other than gun control but politically this is probably easier. To fix it we will probably need to be so intrusive on people’s privacy that nobody will like the solution.

  36. Paul says:

    “she may have been buying them for him either way it would be illegal”. Why is that illegal? I bought my son a shotgun this Christmas was that illegal?

  37. Paul says:

    It looks like CO is dealing with this in a much more reasonable way.

    They limit clips to 15 bullets so you don’t make many popular hunting guns illegal. Even these ones with nondetachable tubular magazines are fine. The law is targeted at what the issues are, not the folks that don’t need to be harassed like we are doing here. Very simple.

    These will probably make no difference like here but at least some folks feel better about the fact that they did something despite the fact that they avoided the real causes of the problem.

  38. mervel says:

    Interesting story on Wyoming recently on NPR. Wyoming has a very low murder rate and a low rate of murder using guns in general. However they have a high suicide rate and have one of the highest rates of home gun ownership in the nation. Thus we see the disconnect they have a high gun death rate, almost totally caused by suicide. It kind of goes to what we were talking about, what is this all really about? Is it about suicide, is it about mass shootings, is it about violent crime using guns? To me we don’t know what it is about we seem to be all over the map. Chicago or New Orleans on the other hand have high murder rates using guns. Most of those guns are not even legally purchased. The laws we pass to address those issues will have not impact on the laws we pass to address issues in Wyoming or Montana. To me I am more worried about murder rates and mass shootings using guns, but others maybe not? But I honestly don’t think we know what we are talking about we just seem to want to do something, which is a horrible reason for legislation.

    None of the laws we are considering would come close to changing gun ownership rates in Wyoming and unless we put some money into mental health counseling targeted toward some of these high suicide areas nothing will change. A shotgun will likely never be outlawed.

  39. Walker says:

    Mervel, it’s simple. It is about death by gun. All kinds.

    A lot of suicide attempts by methods other than firearms fail. And don’t forget, there’s a disturbing tendency for suicides to take someone else with them– most of these mass murders are also suicides.

    And Paul, as I have said over and over again, I am not in favor of a total gun ban. I know that disappoints you terribly. I am in favor of limiting clip size (and honestly, I see no reason not to make 10 the maximum). And I am in favor of universal registration– without registration, how do you know what guns need to be found after someone commits a crime?

    It seems clear to me that some people have an unhealthy obsession with their guns. Guns are sold in record numbers, but the number of people who own guns is falling– obviously, that means fewer and fewer people own more and more guns. Don’t get me wrong– I’m not saying we need to limit the number of guns an individual can own. But hey, there’s just so much more to life than guns. Seems to me that people who obsess over their guns are either very fearful people, or people who are obsessed by the need to feel powerful. Gun manufacturers exploit these unhealthy tendencies. And who’s to say that some of these mass killings don’t arise from a simple, obsessional need to unleash these powerful weapons? What’s the point in building up your stash if you never get to use them?

  40. The Original Larry says:

    “It seems clear to me that some people have an unhealthy obsession with their guns.”

    You don’t have a clue about guns, the people who own them or why they own them. What you have are your own thoughts on the matter and an unwavering belief that what you think equals reality. It doesn’t.

  41. Walker says:

    Uh, Larry, back at ya.

  42. huntermah says:

    The issue is not “taking my guns away”. The issue is stripping U.S. citizens of rights guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution. The 2nd Amendment allows for the protection of all the other rights. If you take away that right, how do we defend the others.

    I served in the US Army for over 20 yrs. I swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And the I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” I have fought, and killed, in defense of the Constitution. NOT ONE person stood up to say I could not have a firearm when I was fighting for their rights as American citizens. Well, I am the same person now as I was then. Why am I suddenly not responsible enough to own a certain type of firearm based on its’ looks.

    In my opinion (and many others), ANYONE that proposes to, fights for, votes for any measure which takes away, or restricts, the rights of ANY U.S. citizen is committing an act of treason. Treason is a punishable offense under the U. S. Constitution. Punishable by imprisonment or death.

    I own many firearms. Each has a specific hunting or shooting purpose. Whether for big game, small game, upland birds, waterfowl, predator hunting, or simply plinking at the range. They are ALL sporting firearms. Not one is a weapon. A weapon is anything used in a defensive or offensive mode against another human being. A baseball bat, plate, bowl, or can of vegetables is a weapon in the wrong (right) hands.

    Knives kill more people annually than guns. Vehicles kill more people than knives, guns, and the affore mentioned (potential) weapons annually. When is the legislation coming to restrict knives and vehicles?

    As I stated at the beginning, this is not about taking away a gun. This is about preserving our rights as American citizens, guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Taking away our rights in ‘bits and pieces’ makes it more pallettable to many, but tastes just as sour to me.

    Please feel free to sharing this post with your legislative representative, friends and family, but especially BO, AC, DF, CS, KG.

  43. Paul says:

    “Walker, it actually sounds like maybe you are? I think he was being sarcastic.” Walker, so was I take it easy. I could care less that you would like to see some guns around that doesn’t disappoint me. I get it you are okay with guns.

    “Gun manufacturers exploit these unhealthy tendencies.” What unhealthy tendency? Now you are just making stuff up. What statistic shows that it is unhealthy to own a bunch of guns?

  44. Walker says:

    Paul, I said that because this is like the third or fourth time that you have suggested that I want to ban all guns. It gets tiresome. Sorry.

    “What statistic shows that it is unhealthy to own a bunch of guns?”

    You got me. No statistic that I’m aware of. But if we all limited our comments to ones that could be backed up by statistics, these threads would be mighty threadbare!

    Let me be explicit: I think it is probably not a sign of a real healthy mental state to acquire a large collection of weapons and ammunition. I’m sure there are exceptions. My opinion: so shoot me.

  45. Paul says:

    “You got me. No statistic that I’m aware of. But if we all limited our comments to ones that could be backed up by statistics, these threads would be mighty threadbare!”

    Perhaps, but I thought I would ask since it sounded like maybe this was based on some real evidence or at least a speck of it.

    It is the kind of thing that as long as enough people say it it sounds good despite the fact that it is just made up.

    “I’m sure there are exceptions.” I doubt it. I am sure you are right that all the people who own large libraries of guns are mental. In fact maybe the best measure of mental fitness to own a gun should be the fact that you don’t have one or only a few? Seems silly to me, but maybe this would work?

  46. Walker says:

    Well given the fact that most gun enthusiasts claim that they need their guns to defend against extremely unlikely threats, and are completely unmoved by figures showing that their weapons are far more likely to kill themselves or their loved ones than to be used successfully in defense, you have to wonder. I know, I know, those figures are all cooked, right? Or they apply to everyone else, but not to me and my family.

    Then there’s the obsession with the idea that the gubmint wants to take all their precious guns against all evidence to the contrary.

    Look, when I was in my twenties, I had me a nice little Winchester 30-30 and a .22 automatic. The Winchester was a sweet piece of work. But you know, I never imagined people breaking into my house and me blowing them away. Fantasize about that stuff too much and you end up blowing away a friend or family member who you though was a burglar.

    But knock your socks off! Have all the guns you desire. And good luck to you!

  47. Walker says:

    That, of course, was meant to be thought.

  48. Walker says:

    “‘Gun manufacturers exploit these unhealthy tendencies.’ What unhealthy tendency?”

    Well, there’s that Bushmaster ad “CONSIDER YOUR MAN CARD REISSUED”

    Like, if you’re anxious about your masculinity, owning an assault weapon will reassure you of your masculinity.

  49. Paul says:

    “Well given the fact that most gun enthusiasts claim that they need their guns to defend against extremely unlikely threats, and are completely unmoved by figures showing that their weapons are far more likely to kill themselves or their loved ones than to be used successfully in defense, you have to wonder.”

    Again, are you sure you have not been watching too much MSNBC? Is this a fact? Even if it is, so what? The only way to avoid any of that is to zap us into a reality that doesn’t exist, a place without guns (one you do not support). If this was a real fact even Patrick Leahy and the vice president (and many others) are mental right. They have guns for this reason specifically. Or are you saying that a gun “enthusiast” is not a gun owner who has their guns for self protection but one who owns numerous guns?

    It just seems like we are constantly getting way to far afield here.

  50. Walker says:

    Paul, fact and opinion are two different things. I presented this as my opinion, not as “real fact”.

    You got yours, I got mine, Pat Leahy has his. One of us could even be right– who knows?

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