Legislators Talk Gun Reform, But We've Seen This Before

Over the years, legislators have introduced bills to restrict gun sales, but nothing has stuck.

Gene Rosen gestures as he speaks during an interview with the Associated Press, Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 in Newtown, Conn. On the day of the shooting, Rosen took in four girls and two boys that were sitting at the end of his driveway; they had just run from the school, among the first to escape Friday’s deadly shooting. He ran upstairs and grabbed an armful of stuffed animals he kept there. He gave those to the children, along with some fruit juice and sat with them as the two boys described seeing their teacher being shot.

Gene Rosen gestures as he speaks during an interview with the AP Monday in Newtown, Conn. On the day of the shooting, Rosen took in four girls and two boys that were sitting at the end of his driveway; they had just run from the school, among the first to escape Friday’s deadly shooting. He ran upstairs and grabbed an armful of stuffed animals he kept there. He gave those to the children, along with some fruit juice and sat with them as the two boys described seeing their teacher being shot.

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During the vigil in Newtown, Conn., Sunday, children who survived the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School wore necklaces adorned with 20 blue beads and 7 yellow stars to remember their 20 fallen classmates and seven adults killed in one of the deadliest school shooting in the country's history.

Emotional scenes and disturbing details surrounding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting have moved many legislators to call for more restrictive gun laws.

[Photos: The Newtown Victims]

But this isn't the first time legislators have vowed to take action. Introducing legislation has become a landmark piece of the country's mourning process in the wake of a mass shooting. But few of those bills have made it to a vote.

After a shooter in Aurora walked into a midnight showing of Batman in July and killed 12 and injured 60, many legislators promised to do something—but no new laws have been enacted.

New York Democrat Rep. Carolyn McCarthy and New Jersey Democrat Sen. Frank Lautenberg introduced legislation after the shooting that banned online ammunition sales, but both versions of the bill have been stuck in committee. The legislation was a direct response to Aurora in which the shooter, James Holmes, purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition online without anyone noticing he was potentially stockpiling for an attack.

And legislation that would prohibit the sale of rifle magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds—similar to the one used by the shooter in Newtown—has more than 100 co-sponsers. But again, that bill has floundered in a House subcommittee for nearly two years.

[Read: Gun Control Debate Reignited in the Wake of Connecticut School Massacre]

Even legislation that sponsors say would strengthen existing laws has failed to make it to the floor.

The "Fix Gun Checks Act," which would make it illegal for individuals to buy guns at pawn shops and gun shows without a criminal background check has failed to make it to the floor for a vote. The bill would also strengthen the National Instant Criminal background check system by incentivizing state and local governments to enter more mental and criminal records into the national database.

While the national database is supposed to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who pose a risk to themselves and society, the reporting system has massive holes according to the Government Accountability Office. Local governments don't have adequate resources to enter court data into the national database and an oversight study showed 17 states had entered fewer than 10 mental health records into the system since NICs was created six years ago.

[Read: How to Protect Yourself in a Mass Shooting]

Yet, some say the gruesome details of Sandy Hook have created more motivation than ever.

In an interview with U.S. News, Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal says he will carry Newtown's heartache back to Washington and plans to translate it into legislative action.

"There is not a single measure that can be a panacea. It is going to take a thoughtful, common-sense approach," Blumenthal says. "But I do believe the conversation has been changed."

California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein plans on introducing the first "assault weapons ban" of the 113th Congress in January, which will include a ban on high-capacity magazines and will make it illegal to sell or own more than 900 types of weapons.

"There will be a bill. We've been working on it now for a year," Feinstein said on NBC's Meet the Press. "The purpose of this bill is to get ... weapons of war off the streets of our cities."

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Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News and World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at lfox@usnews.com.