Shootings That Shaped Gun Control Laws

Most major gun law reforms have come on the heels of a mass shooting.

ByABC News
July 26, 2012, 2:55 PM

July 27, 2012 -- intro:As the initial horror of last week's movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., begins to subside, the calls for action to prevent another mass shooting are growing.

But in the week following the worst mass shooting in U.S. history that left 12 dead and 58 injured, the political push for gun control is far weaker than after similar tragedies of the past.

Nearly every major reform to U.S. gun laws has come on the heels of a mass shooting. From Columbine to John F. Kennedy, America's most terrifying shootings have been the catalysts for the country's most sweeping reforms.

quicklist: 1title: St. Valentine's Day Massacre category: Inspired a hefty tax on automatic weaponstext:During prohibition in 1929 mobsters like Al Capone ruled the streets of Chicago, stockpiling fortunes from bootlegged alcohol sales and taking no prisoners. To solidify his position as Chicago's No.1 gangster, Capone's cronies executed seven rival mobsters in what came to be known as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Capone's men were loaded down with two Thompson submachine guns when they burst into rival mobster George "Bugs" Moran garage, lined seven men up against a wall and opened fire, shredding their victims with 90 bullets.

The massacre inspired Congress to take action against the machine guns and short-barreled shotguns that were common in gang violence. In 1934 President Franklin Roosevelt signed the National Firearms Act which imposed a hefty $200 fined on such gangster weapons.

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quicklist: 2title: President Kennedy's Assassination category: Inspired Congress to outlaw mail order sales of rifles and shotgunstext: After Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy using a sniper rifle he bought through the mail, Sen. Thomas Dodd, D-Conn., introduced a ban on mail order sales of rifles and shotguns, re-igniting the gun control debate.

While Kennedy's assassination in 1963 restarted the national discussion about gun control, it was not until the back-to-back assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy pushed Congress to actually pass legislation.

Four months after Robert Kennedy was killed, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Gun Control Act of 1968 into law, banning mail order sales of rifles and shotguns and prohibiting most felons, drug users and people found mentally incompetent from buying guns.


quicklist: 3title: President Reagan's Assassination Attemptcategory: Inspired criminal background check requirementstext: President Ronald Reagan had been in office a mere 69 days when John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate him while leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel in D.C. Reagan was shot in the lung and made a full recovery.

Reagan's press secretary James Brady was not so lucky. He took a bullet to the head that left him permanently paralyzed. Following the attack, Brady became an advocate for handgun control, founding the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence that is still active today.

In 1993 President Bill Clinton signed a law that requires prospective gun owners to pass a federal background check before buying a gun. The act was named after James Brady.