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Sun, Aug. 18

Editorial: Little has changed with gun control

In the past year our country has felt much anguish because of lives lost and increased debate over gun regulations - matching the periods since the shootings in 1999 at Columbine High School, in 2007 at Virginia Tech, and in 2011 in Tucson.

It was this past December when the murders of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., propelled the gun control debate to a fever pitch.

However, it was one year ago yesterday when the debate truly began anew - after what happened in Aurora, Colo., at a movie theater. That is when 12 people lost their lives and 58 others were injured at the Century Aurora 16 theatre.

All of the above have been horrific tragedies, and all have combined to bring about some changes since then. Aside from calls for increased background checks and for more help for the mentally ill, many states have gone from places where gun control was a topic so far off the political radar that even few Democrats wanted to talk about it, much less do anything about it, to states enacting firearms restrictions.

A USA Today analysis of the 86 state gun laws passed since December 2012, however, shows that states have both tightened and loosened access to guns. Lawmakers in many states used the shootings to broaden both who can carry a gun and where they can carry it. States including Colorado and Maryland tightened access to guns, Arkansas and Mississippi eased restrictions, and many other states issued rules whose impact could be debated either way.

Most of the changes have been deemed "reasonable" by some and draconian by others, particularly the National Rifle Association in the latter group.

In Arizona, since the 2011 Tucson shooting involving now-former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, few changes have occurred.

And, with history as our guide, these shootings will do little to change public sentiment regarding gun control, which has been moving away from putting more laws on the books for some time.

A Pew Research Center poll conducted in April 2012 showed that 49 percent of people said the right to own guns was more important while 45 percent said it was more important to control gun ownership. Those numbers were unchanged from a Pew survey conducted in 2011 just days after Giffords was shot in Tucson.

That the numbers on gun control remain steady, even in the aftermath of such high profile events, suggests that people simply don't equate these incidents of violence with the broader debate over the right role for guns in our society. They view them as entirely separate conversations - and that's why these tragedies are not likely to change the political conversation over guns, either.

That is understandable, yet not to the victims' families, who would say then the people who died appear to have done so in vain.

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