Some in Congress Eager to Revive Gun Control Legislation

Group of legislators begins conversation about a ban on assault weapons.

Colorado
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A Gallup poll shows that support for tougher gun laws has dropped dramatically over the last decade. In 1991, 78 percent of Americans favored implementing stricter gun laws. In 2011 only 44 percent of Americans polled wanted them.

But that hasn't stopped Congress in the past from responding to tragedy.

After Seung-Hui Cho murdered 32 students at Virginia Tech, Congress passed the "NICS Improvement Amendments Act," which made it tougher for criminals and those with mental illness to purchase firearms. The bill was a direct response to the reporting gap that allowed Cho, who had been declared mentally unstable, to buy a gun.

Before it was passed, between 80 percent and 90 percent of the mental health records and 25 percent of felony conviction records were missing from NICS, the national database that is used for background checks.

In many states, local governments and courts lack the infrastructure necessary to send complete records of individuals' criminal backgrounds or mental illnesses to the national NICS database. The NICS Act provided financial assistance to help states send records to NICs and penalized states who failed to comply.

But, earlier this week the Government Accountability Office released an audit of the "NICS Improvement Amendments Act" and concluded that "most states have made limited progress in providing mental health records."

Since 2007, 17 states uploaded fewer than 10 mental illness records to NICS.

Pam Simon, a staffer for former Congresswoman Gabby Gifford and who was shot in the chest in the 2011 Tucson shooting that nearly killed Giffords, says it has been 18 months since Jared Lee Loughner killed six and injured 12 in a supermarket parking lot.

"For people like me, you know what if feels like to have a piece of metal go through your body," Simon says. "We know how to do these tragedies in this country, we bring flowers, we plan permanent memorials. What better permanent memorial is there for survivors of gun violence than to get some legislation?"

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