Calls for new gun laws are falling on deaf ears

Calls for new gun laws are falling on deaf ears
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Renewed calls for stricter gun controls following a school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead are falling on deaf ears.

Legislators in states across the country have delayed, defeated or refused to take up new measures to prevent more gun violence — despite the impassioned calls of victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

In Florida's legislature, House Republicans blocked a Democratic effort to revive debate on a measure to ban assault weapons with student survivors from Parkland watching in the gallery. 

The bill, introduced after the 2016 killings of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, failed on a party-line vote.

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Students from Parkland who have blanketed the media to call for gun reforms have expressed incredulity at the lack of action.

"It seemed almost heartless how they immediately pushed the button to say 'no,'" Sheryl Acquaroli, a 16-year-old student from Stoneman Douglas, told CNN's Anderson Cooper

Advocates for gun control also ran into opposition in other states.

In Arizona, Republicans blocked a Democratic effort to force debate over whether to ban bump stocks and other modifications to increase weapons' rate of fire — and instead voted to debate an anti-porn bill.

In Florida, just after the vote to not debate an assault rifle ban, legislators did debate a measure that declares pornography a threat to public health.

The shooter who killed 59 people in Las Vegas last October used a bump stock, leading to calls for their banning. But efforts to do so in Washington have gone nowhere.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery MORE on Tuesday called for Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight The Memo: Trump and McCabe go to war McCabe book: Sessions once said FBI was better off when it 'only hired Irishmen' MORE to draft a memorandum banning bump stocks. Trump is scheduled to hold a listening sessions with students and teachers on Wednesday afternoon. 

Ten other gun control measures — including legislation requiring universal background checks for gun purchases and a bill to prohibit those convicted of domestic abuse charges from owning a weapon — have been bottled up in the Arizona House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee this year. None have received a hearing.

Meanwhile, measures to loosen restrictions on guns have actually moved forward in some cases.

A Florida legislator breathed new life into a proposal to end a ban on guns in schools. State Sen. Greg Steube (R) said he would bring the measure up for a hearing, though legislative leaders suggested they had little appetite for a floor vote.

One measure that has received a hearing in Arizona would loosen gun safety rules in foster homes. That bill, which has advanced out of a state House committee, would end gun safety requirements in homes of foster parents.

In Wisconsin, where Democrats tried to force a vote on a measure requiring universal background checks for all gun purchases, Republicans used a legislative tactic to rewrite the bill to fund armed guards in schools — a policy backed by the National Rifle Association.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) called the Democratic tactics “sad.”

In South Carolina, legislative leaders threw cold water on a Democratic proposal, which was introduced after the Parkland attack, to ban sales of AR-15 rifles to those under the age of 20. 

“No one wants to see loss of life, ever,” House Majority Leader Gary Simrill (R) told The State newspaper. “Restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens is not going to be the answer to the problem.”

Instead, Simrill suggested allowing those with concealed weapon permits to carry their firearms in more locations. South Carolina legislators are also considering measures that would arm teachers.

Two Democrats in the Ohio state Senate this week introduced legislation to ban the possession of weapons like the AR-15. The measure would require those who own assault-style weapons already to dispose of them. But the measure is unlikely to advance through the state House, where pro-gun Republicans maintain control.

Another bill to ban bump stocks has languished in the state Senate since it was introduced.

In Missouri, Republicans delayed hearings on a handful of measures meant to roll back restrictions on gun rights. The bills, which would have allowed concealed carry holders to bring their guns to church and other locations, blocked colleges from banning firearms on campus and preempted laws requiring electronic firearm tracking systems, were ostensibly delayed so that they could be heard alongside Democratic proposals.

But gun control backers pointed out the hearings, initially scheduled for Tuesday, fell on the same day as the gun control group Moms Demand Action was to hold its annual lobbying day in Jefferson City.

State legislators in Wyoming on Tuesday debated a “stand your ground” law that would grant immunity to someone charged with assault or murder if they claim to have acted in self defense. The legislation would put the onus on prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person had not acted in self defense before going to trial.

Some Democrats in bluer states have also marked the Florida massacre in their own push to implement stronger gun control laws.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) on Tuesday testified before a state Senate committee on a measure to restrict access to firearms for people convicted of stalking or domestic violence, or for those who have an active restraining order against them. The Oregon state House voted to pass the legislation last week, a day after the Florida attack.

And in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said he would sign legislation to reduce the size of ammunition magazines, close the gun show loophole and ban certain types of firearms and ammunition. Several of those measures have already made progress in the New Jersey Assembly.

“I think parents watching should feel that we are doing everything we can,” Murphy said at a news conference in Trenton.