Will the Sandy Hook Shootings Have a Lasting Impact on America's Attitude Towards Gun Control Laws?

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The shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14 prompted extensive news coverage throughout the world, including wide attention in the British media. In the aftermath debate in the US about the need for increased gun control laws has been reignited, posing the question: will this be the moment that America makes a change in terms of its gun laws?

Certainly there is a momentum to enact this change. President Obama has said that he will support a new bill to ban assault rifles and has appointed Vice President Biden as the head of a task force to produce a firm set of proposals on the reform of firearm laws over the coming weeks. The Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein – a long-time advocate of stricter gun control laws – has pledged to introduce a bill on January 3 that would outlaw around 100 types of military-style semi-automatic guns.

The appetite for firmer regulation among politicians (including many conservatives) is underpinned by a popular feeling of the need to take action following the horrific events at Sandy Hook. A CNN poll on Wednesday suggests a significant proportion of Americans would go further than Obama; with 37 per cent favouring major restrictions on ownership, 33 per cent favouring minor restrictions, and 15 per cent supporting an absolute ban on all civilian guns. This contrasts with a YouGov survey in August that found 47 per cent supported gun laws remaining the same or becoming less strict.

Gun retailers have seen the need for increased sensitivity in the context of public anger; Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of America’s largest gun retail chains, has suspended the sale of assault rifles (or “modern sporting guns”) in its stores. And Cerberus, the huge private equity firm that owns several gun-making companies, has put them all up for sale, attempting to distance itself from a consumer backlash.

So surely the US is on the brink of introducing a set of much stricter gun control laws? After all,...
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