Cries for Gun Control After Shootings Yield Few Policy Changes

PHOTO: President Barack Obama wipes his eye as he talks about the Connecticut elementary school shooting, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, in the White House briefing room in Washington.Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo
President Barack Obama wipes his eye as he talks about the Connecticut elementary school shooting, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, in the White House briefing room in Washington.

Will Friday's tragic shooting at a Connecticut elementary school prompt a new push for stricter federal gun laws?

Many, including White House press secretary Jay Carney, said that a debate over gun-control legislation should wait for another day. But others urged public officials to think of the massacre as a call to act.

President Barack Obama, who has remained relatively silent on the gun debate during his first term, mourned the shooting victims during an emotional statement from the White House on Friday afternoon. But he also hinted that policy changes could be taken up in the future.

"We're going to have to come together to take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics," he said.

Hardly any action on gun legislation at the federal level has taken place in the wake of recent mass shootings, angering gun control advocates, while gun rights have been expanded at the state level.

Pro-gun control groups staged a rally Friday afternoon near the White House urging the president to take a stand. Will this time be different? It's hard to say. But here is a snapshot of the gun debates that followed mass shootings over the past five years, none of which produced significant results.


Twenty children and six adults were shot and killed when a heavily-armed man carried out an attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14. The response:

White House press secretary Jay Carney: "Twenty seven people, including 20 children, shot and killed when a heavily-armed man carried out an attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14. The gunman was also found dead inside the school, raising the total death toll to 28. The shooter's mother was slain in the attack.

"We're still waiting for more information about what the incident in Connecticut. As we do, I think it's important on a day like today to view this, as I know the president as a father does, and I as a father and others who are parents certainly do, which is to feel enormous sympathy for families that are affected and to do everything we can to support state and local law enforcement and to support those who are enduring what appears to be a very tragic event.

"There is, I'm sure -- will be, rather, a day for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates, but I don't think today is that day." -- (Source: Transcript, White House Press Briefing, 12/14/2012)

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-New York), pro-gun control: "I was just giving the White House a heads up that the gloves are off on my side and I was going to do everything I possibly could. … If that meant embarrassing everybody, that's what I would do." (Source: Politico, 12/14/2012)

Piers Morgan: "This is now President Obama's biggest test - will he have the courage to stand up to the American gun lobby?" (Source: Twitter, 12/14/2012)

Bill Hobbs: "No mass shooting killer was ever stopped by someone telling him he's in a gun-free zone." (Source: Twitter, 12/14/2012)

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg: "Calling for 'meaningful action' is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership – not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today." (Source: Statement, 12/14/2012)


A masked gunman entered a crowded movie theater during a midnight premiere of the latest Batman film and opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding 58. The response:

White House press secretary Jay Carney: "We can take steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them with existing law." (Source: Univision News, 07/22/2012)

Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney: "I still believe that the Second Amendment is the right course to preserve and defend and don't believe that new laws are going to make a difference in this type of tragedy." (Source, CNBC, 07/23/2012)

President Obama: "We have to enforce the laws we've already got, make sure that we're keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We've done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we've got more to do when it comes to enforcement.

"But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don't belong on our streets. And so what I'm trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced. But part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence." (Source: Debate Transcript, 10/16/2012)

National Rifle Association: "The future of your Second Amendment rights will be at stake … And nothing less than the future of our country and our freedom will be at stake." (Source, Bloomberg News, 08/07/2012)

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: "Congress has done nothing since the mid-1990s to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. We pledge to keep fighting the NRA and entire gun lobby in an effort to strengthen our background checks to include all firearm purchases, ban assault clips with large magazines that enable mass killers, and to make it more difficult to obtain concealed carry permits … We can win this fight, with your voices and your action." (Source: Statement, 07/21/2012)


Six were killed and 13 others were wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona), who suffered a non-fatal gunshot wound to the head. Jared Lee Loughner, whom doctors say suffers from schizophrenia, was sentenced to life in prison for the mass shooting. The response:

President Obama: "I know that every time we try to talk about guns, it can reinforce stark divides. People shout at one another, which makes it impossible to listen. We mire ourselves in stalemate, which makes it impossible to get to where we need to go as a country. However, I believe that if common sense prevails, we can get beyond wedge issues and stale political debates to find a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place." (Source: Arizona Daily Star, 03/13/2011)

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-New York) on "Fire Sale Loophole" legislation: "After this weekend's tragedy, it's clear that Congress must close troubling loopholes in federal gun control laws that let firearms fall into the hands of convicted felons, fugitives, domestic violence perpetrators and severely emotionally disturbed individuals. Every gun sold should require a background check, period." (Source: Raw Story, 01/13/2011)

Brad Dayspring, then-spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on a bill banning people from carrying guns within 1,000 feet of a federal official: "The proposal wouldn't have prevented this tragedy, or other mentally unstable individuals or criminals from committing horrific acts." (Source: New York Daily News, 01/12/2011)

John Velleco, Gun Owners of America: "Authorities don't know all the facts and already politicians like [New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn] McCarthy are blaming the 2nd Amendment, the Tea Party and far right for the actions of a confused and deranged young man. There is nothing to suggest that more gun control laws would have prevented this … You can't just pass a law every time something bad happens and expect that to solve the problem." (Source: OpenSecrets, 01/11/2011)


An army veteran killed six people and wounded four others during Sunday services at a Sikh temple before being shot dead by a police officer in what was treated by officials as a case of domestic terrorism. The response:

President Obama: "These kinds of terrible and tragic events are happening with too much regularity for us not do some soul-searching and examine additional ways that we can prevent" such violence. (Source: CNN, 08/06/2012)

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg: "The fact that criminals, terrorists and other mentally ill people have access to guns is a national crisis." (Source: CNN, 08/06/2012)

Mitt Romney: Called the slayings "a senseless act of violence and a tragedy that should never befall any house of worship." (Source: CNN, 08/06/2012)

Attorney General Eric Holder: "We should sensibly discuss if there is a need to change our laws, and we should certainly discuss how we might change the hearts of those so filled with hate that the despicable act we mourn today could ever have occurred…For our nation's law enforcement community, our resolve to prevent acts of terrorism and combat crimes motivated by hatred has never been stronger." (Source: New York Magazine, 08/10/2012)

Rev. Jesse Jackson: "It's easy to be polite to say 'We're so sorry this happened' and give the same speech at the next killing a month from now." He added that it was time to move from "politeness to a change in policy." (Source: New York Magazine, 08/10/2012)


A former sociology student at the university entered a lecture hall and murdered five people and inured more than a dozen others before killing himself during a shooting rampage on the DeKalb, Illinois campus. The response:

Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.): "The perpetrator might have thought twice before they went into a situation like that and opened fire had our citizens had the right to have a concealed weapon… It wasn't until the individual at NIU turned the gun on himself that the killing stopped, and perhaps it would have stopped sooner had there been a security guard present or had there been somebody with a concealed weapon." (Source: Chicago Tribune, 02/15/2008)

State Rep. Edward Acevedo (D): "What's going to happen when someone pulls out a hairbrush that someone else thinks is a gun? Are we going to turn this state into the Wild West, where everybody gets to carry guns? … These weapons are made for mass destruction and war – they don't belong on the streets of Illinois… They are made to kill mass amounts of people. You don't need these kinds of weapons to do any kind of sport hunting." (Source: Chicago Tribune, 02/15/2008


A gunman shot and killed more than 30 people and wounded more than a dozen others before committing suicide at the Blacksburg, Virginia school. It was later revealed that the gunman had a documented anxiety disorder, yet he was able to purchase weapons. **The revelation prompted the passage of a bipartisan gun law aimed at preventing seriously mentally ill people from purchasing guns. The legislation was originally introduced by New York Democrats Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy in 2002, but it didn't gain enough support to pass until after the Virginia Tech incident. The response:

Shooting survivor Colin Goddard: "I assumed we did everything we could to keep guns out of the hands of someone who should never have them. I was shocked to learn that we don't." (Source: Houston Chronicle, 06/03/2012)

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-New York), sponsor of gun-control law: Says it will "close the wide gaps in our nation's firearm background-check system to ensure violent criminals and the mentally ill no longer slip through the cracks and gain access to dangerous weapons." (Source: Los Angeles Times, 01/08/2008)

Then-WhiteHouse spokesman Tony Fratto: "We saw with the terrible shootings at Virginia Tech last year that an incomplete system can have tragic consequences." (Source: Los Angeles Times, 01/08/2008)

Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Violence Policy Center: There was "far more bad in this bill than good," expressing concern about a provision that could restore gun-owning privileges to some people now prohibited from purchasing firearms. (Source: Los Angeles Times, 01/08/2008)

Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California): "As the Virginia Tech shooting reminded us, there is an urgent national need to improve the background check system" to keep guns out of the hands of those barred from buying them. (Source: CBS News, 02/11/2009)