More State Laws Are Loosening Gun Restrictions

While some states strengthen restrictions, others are loosening gun laws.

ByABC News
April 5, 2013, 10:24 AM

April 5, 2013 -- The Newtown school massacre has prompted much legislation concerning gun laws, but ironically most of the bills passed or being considered by states are aimed at loosening rules on gun possession.

Connecticut, Colorado and Maryland have grabbed headlines for passing tough new laws on gun ownership along with President Obama's campaign for a federal law.

At the same time, however, Georgia and Arkansas lawmakers have pursued legislation for opening more public places to guns.

Legislation in Georgia to allow guns in churches and bars was gutted in the state House after passing out of the state Senate, but in Arkansas, lawmakers approved a bill to let churches decide if their parishioners can tout pistols in the pews.

West Virginia was on the brink of implementing uniform gun laws across the state that would loosen restrictions in four counties, but stopped when state senators who opposed the bill received death threats.

"I will never reward that kind of behavior with legislative victory when you're resorting to that kind of terrorist, bullying behavior," Senate President Jeffrey Kessler told the Associated Press. "It just will not be tolerated."

Lawmakers in South Dakota made it legal for schools to allow faculty and administrators to carry guns to work – a measure the National Rifle Association recommended in its recently released School Shield Program panel.

Alaska, Iowa, Texas and Maine all also have considered expanding protections for gun owners in their states since the Connecticut slaughter took place last December.

Adam Winkler, professor of Constitutional law at UCLA, said these pro-gun bills are products of "symbolic politics" and it's taking place on both sides of the aisle.

"I don't think there's a huge number of people who want to bring guns into churches," Winkler told ABC News. "As usual I think the deep division is unfortunate because we can't have a thoughtful discussion about gun policy. Right now it's everyone's pro gun or anti gun when the truth is the guns are here to stay no matter what anyone wants to do and we should all agree that keeping guns out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill is worth considerable effort."

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said these new laws were not just symbolic.

"I think there's a realization by most people that gun control is not an effective means of trying to reduce crime," Arulanandam told ABC News. "I think there's a realization that in order to do something substantive to reduce crime we need to fix the broken mental health system. We need to make sure that criminals ... are arrested prosecuted and punished."

President Obama's administration maintains that the majority of Americans support their plan for cracking down on gun violence, including requiring background checks for all transfers of guns. Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer told reporters in Washington Wednesday that it was a "90 percent issue," referring to the 90 percent of Americans who supported background checks in a poll released earlier this year.