10 reasons why 2015 was a year of progress for gun violence prevention
© Greg Nash

In light of the mass shootings, urban gun violence and negligent homicides and suicides that occurred all too often last year, many Americans feel like nothing was done in 2015 to combat the gun violence epidemic in the United States. To the contrary, the gun violence prevention movement made significant strides in 2015, laying the groundwork for more progress in 2016. Here's why:


10. No fly, no buy. Following the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) announced that he will issue an executive order to prevent individuals on government watch lists from buying firearms. While it seems like a no-brainer that people prohibited from boarding a plane because they may harm Americans should also be barred from buying firearms such as military-style assault weapons, Congress is so beholden to the gun lobby that it has refused to close this loophole. In the absence of congressional action, many states will follow Connecticut's initiative in 2016.

9. Seattle's gun violence tax. The city of Seattle imposed a $25 tax on each firearm sold and an ammunition tax of 2 to 5 cents per round. In December, a county judge upheld the law, finding that it did not impact Second Amendment rights, but represented a legitimate tax to finance gun violence research and offset a portion of the soaring costs resulting from gun violence. While the gun lobby will appeal the decision, if the law survives the challenge, many municipalities across the nation will follow Seattle's lead.

8. The New York Times. On Dec. 5, The New York Times published an editorial entitled "End the Gun Epidemic in America" on its front page. It was the first time an editorial appeared on the front page since 1920. The Times has continued to publish editorial after editorial calling for specific action to address the gun violence epidemic. Other major newspapers have similarly focused on gun violence prevention, fueling the growth of the movement.

7. Doctors and lawyers unite. The American Bar Association, the American College of Physicians and seven other major national medical and public health professional organizations published a "call to action," advocating the adoption of reasonable and sensible measures that are consistent with the Second Amendment to address this public health problem. The recommendations in that paper were endorsed by 52 national and other major organizations.

6. The NBA. On Christmas Day, the National Basketball Association rolled out its stars to lend its voice to the call to end gun violence. The NBA's partner in this effort was Everytown for Gun Safety, founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I). President Obama tweeted: "I'm proud of the @NBA for taking a stand against gun violence. Sympathy for victims isn't enough — change requires all of us speaking up." Look for more athletes and celebrities to speak out in 2016.

5. Polling. In the period from Feb. 7, 2013 (two months after the Sandy Hook, Conn. massacre) to Nov. 5, 2015, support for universal background checks ranged from 88 percent to 93 percent in every Quinnipiac University poll. With such unwavering support, including among gun owners, Congress will eventually give in to the will of American people.

4. The courts. Federal courts upheld every significant gun safety measure enacted into law following the Sandy Hook massacre. In December, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up a challenge of Highland Park, Ill.'s ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. In October, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a similar ban.

3. No longer the third rail of politics. Prior to the Sandy Hook massacre, politicians were silent. Now, many speak out often, with Connecticut Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySenate GOP blocks voting rights bill Congress barrels toward debt cliff End the practice of hitting children in public schools MORE (D), and Newtown, Conn.'s congresswoman, Elizabeth Esty (D), leading the way. Significantly, Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton is campaigning on it. In 2016, gun violence prevention will be a litmus test for Democrats.

2. The White House. President Obama remains committed to pressing for gun violence prevention measures. 2016 began with the president leading a national dialogue on gun violence. While the executive orders the president issued will fall short of what is necessary to cure the gun violence epidemic, the White House's continued emphasis on gun violence prevention is significant and amplifies the efforts being made at the state and local levels.

1. The movement grows. Grassroots efforts continue to gain momentum. The movement is broad. Faith leaders are speaking out across the nation. Powerful advocacy groups are raising money to support candidates who favor gun violence prevention measures. Gun violence prevention advocates are growing in numbers, their voices are getting louder and they are mobilizing for the 2016 elections. Organizations like Moms Demand Action, which rose up in the days following the Sandy Hook massacre, are now powerful, loud and relentless in pursuit of meaningful change.

Despite all of this forward momentum, Congress refused to act in 2015 and remains complicit in the gun violence epidemic that plagues the nation. Congress's abdication of its responsibilities to protect Americans from this public health crisis is shameful, and that is unlikely to change until after the 2016 elections. Accordingly, in 2016, the focus will be on efforts at the state and local level, and the upcoming elections in which gun violence prevention groups will be an active participant.

Frank resides in Sandy Hook, Conn. He founded Team 26 and leads it in the annual Sandy Hook Ride on Washington. He is president-elect of the Connecticut Bar Association, president of the New England Bar Association and a delegate to the American Bar Association House of Delegates. The opinions expressed here are his own. Follow him on Twitter @montefrank1.