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Why Gabrielle Giffords shooting hasn't boosted gun control

America – and Congress – have changed during the past two decades, giving gun rights the upper hand in states and on Capitol Hill. The Gabrielle Giffords shooting hasn't changed that.

By Staff Writer / January 17, 2011

Gun enthusiast, D.J. Dorer, of Yorktown, Va., carries his AR15 pistol outside the Capitol during a progun rally at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Monday. Speakers at Monday's event said tragedies such as the shooting spree in Arizona that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords are no excuse for 'destroying the Constitution.'

Steve Helber/AP

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The aftermath of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others – six fatally – last week has resulted in no plans for sweeping antigun legislation.

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Instead, gun control proposals forwarded by members of Congress in the past week have been notably limited in scope – seeking to address only narrow subsections of the population or perceived legal loopholes. The reason: the political calculus of gun control has changed dramatically in the past 20 years, resulting in a strongly pro-gun Congress.

"Let's be honest here: There haven't been the votes in the Congress for gun control," Sen Charles Schumer (D) of New York said on NBC's "Meet the Press." ''We're looking for some things where we can maybe find some common ground."

Senator Schumer, for instance, is forwarding a plan to require the military to inform the FBI when an enlistee is rejected for excessive drug use. Such a policy would have prevented Jared Loughner, the primary suspect in the Tucson, Ariz., shootings from buying a weapon, Schumer said.

Mr. Loughner had attempted to enlist in the Army but was rejected for failing a drug test, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Similarly, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D) of New York is seeking to ban the extended ammunition magazines that allegedly were used in the rampage. With fewer bullets in each clip, attackers would have to reload more frequently, allowing time for them to be subdued.

Rep. Peter King (R) of New York wants to ban guns from an area within 1,000 feet of some high-ranking federal officials.

Meanwhile, at the state level, states are considering expanding gun rights. Arizona, for example, is considering a bill that would make it the second state – after Utah – to allow concealed weapons on college campuses.

The change on Capitol Hill is reflective of a change in the US. The gun culture has broadened beyond aficionados – a fact that was embraced by the Democrats in recent elections. The previous Democratic majority in the House was built significantly on welcoming pro-gun conservative Democrats into the fold.

Indeed, the gun-rights community has made inroads precisely by refusing to back down, even in the face of mass shootings like the one in Arizona. Now, with momentum on their side, gun-rights lawmakers largely can call the shots on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California, who was the principal sponsor of the assault-weapons ban in 1993, told The Los Angeles Times Friday that there was little political will to support a measure that could be seen as curtailing gun rights.

"It's a very hard battle now," she said.

• Wire material was used in this story.

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