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  •  Protesters hold signs as they call for a reform of gun laws three days after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, at a rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., Feb. 17, 2018.

    Protesters hold signs as they call for a reform of gun laws three days after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, at a rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., Feb. 17, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 February 2019

Democratic lawmakers of the U.S. are gunning for tougher gun laws after decades of violence and mass shootings. 

Democratic lawmakers in the United States are pushing stricter gun laws in statehouses across the country, emboldened by sweeping electoral victories in the 2018 midterm elections and heightened confidence that public opinion is on their side a year after a school shooting in Parkland, Florida in which 17 students and staff were killed.

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Last year’s wins handed Democrats control of the governorship and legislature in several more states, including New Mexico, New York, Colorado, Maine and Nevada, and lawmakers are using their new power to draft or pass gun laws.

Polls show more Americans favoring tougher gun laws after decades of mass shootings, including the Feb. 14, 2018 massacre at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students and staff members. But the political might of the National Rifle Association – and its deep coffers – made supporting gun restrictions a risky proposition for many officials.

That changed last year when Democratic candidates ran on the issue of gun violence in unprecedented numbers.

At the federal level, where Democrats captured the U.S. House of Representatives after eight years of Republican control, nearly 80 percent of the 62 freshman Democrats elected in November included gun safety in their campaign platforms, a Reuters analysis found. That far outstripped the proportion of candidates who did so in 2016.

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House Democrats have introduced a bill requiring criminal background checks for private and gun show firearm sales, closing what advocates call a deadly loophole in federal law.

National gun safety groups are more optimistic about making progress outside Washington, with nearly 20 states poised to take up gun safety bills this year, they said.

Lawmakers are focusing on bills with widespread approval in public polling, including background checks, “red flag” bills that allow judges to confiscate guns from dangerous people, and bans on domestic abusers owning guns. Several states passed similar laws last year, including some with Republican governors or legislatures, and advocates say they hope to draw Republican votes in numerous states this year.

Gun rights groups also are pursuing new state laws. “We continue to defeat gun control legislation across the country while passing gun rights legislation,” said NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker.


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