State Legislators Take Aim at New Gun Restrictions

A Pew Research Center survey released in early December showed there are more Americans supporting gun rights than there are U.S. citizens backing more gun control laws for the first time in almost 20 years.

However, more than 200 state lawmakers from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia vow to do whatever they can to prevent gun violence by making it tougher to own a firearm, state by state.

The Pew Research Center survey showing that slightly more than half of Americans believe it is more important to protect gun ownership rights was released Dec. 10, two days after the American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention held its first meeting.

Described as a nonpartisan coalition of state legislators, the group discussed ways to strengthen gun laws. The lawmakers also talked about ways to close loopholes in the background check system in their states. That is a growing concern they have about guns in the context of domestic violence and abuse and “effective intervention strategies in communities experiencing high rates of gun violence.”

“Gun violence isn’t a regional concern or a partisan issue. It’s a tragic crisis affecting Americans across the country,” said New York State General Assembly member Brian Kavanagh (D).

“We’ve come together in recognition of the essential role state legislators must play – whether or not Congress chooses to act – in reducing gun violence,” added Kavanagh, the founder of American State Legislators for Gun Violence Protection.

A Democrat from the Texas Legislature, Senator Jose R. Rodriguez, said the members of the coalition feel they have no alternative but to act at the state level “given Congress's inability to enact sensible, commonsense laws.”

However, the legislators’ constituents may not agree.

The Pew study showed support for gun rights increased seven points — from 45 percent to 52 percent — while the share of people supporting gun control fell five points — from 51 percent to 46 percent.

There is a racial divide in the Pew survey.

It shows 54 percent of African-Americans believe gun ownership does more to protect people than endanger them, nearly twice as many as the percentage who answered that question in the affirmative two years ago.

Many more white Americans see gun ownership as a protection issue. The Pew survey shows 62 percent view guns as doing more to protect people as compared to 54 percent who felt that way in December 2012.

The members of this new coalition of state lawmakers are definitely in the minority on the question of whether gun ownership does more to protect people than endanger them.

“As both a legislator and a survivor of victims of gun violence -- my father and brother-in-law were both murdered with firearms -- I am inspired by the creation of this new coalition and hopeful it will lead to a reduction in injuries and death,” said Renny Cushing (D), who is a member of the New Hampshire State House and the founder and executive director of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights.

“We can honor those families and communities ravaged by gun violence by finding common sense ways to prevent future gun tragedies,” he added.

Barbara Bollier, a state representative from Kansas, is one of the Republicans in the coalition.

“This nonpartisan coalition is a tremendous opportunity for the people's voice to be heard throughout the country,” she said.

While the state legislators’ coalition might be bipartisan, Americans’ attitude toward gun control certainly is not.