Both Sides Say Tragedy May Renew Gun Control Debate
It has been more than a decade of progress for the National Rifle Association and other proponents of looser gun regulations, who saw their opposition wither in the face of sweeping Democratic losses in 1994 and the loss of the White House in 2000. But when interviewed last year about the decline of the issue's prominence, advocates on both sides suggested that an especially violent eventlike the horrific shootings at Virginia Techcould cause a reversal of fortunes.
At the time, Matt Bennett, a vice president for the left-leaning group Third Way and former spokesman for Americans for Gun Safety, said that gun advocates had largely accomplished the top goals of their agenda.
"Their major goal is to have nothing happen," he said. "They know that spectacular gun crime is going to occur, and they're always braced for another Columbine-like event that galvanizes public opinion."
In 1999, two students at Colorado's Columbine High School gunned down 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves. Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, referenced the same event when expressing his concern that gun backers had not been aggressive enough in pursuing their goals while they had the upper hand.
"If there were ever to be another change in perception, another Columbine, for example, [gun control proponents] might pick up where they left off," he said.