Gun control: Three ways supporters are carrying on the fight

While gun control proponents may have conceded defeat in the Senate, they insist the war isn’t over. President Obama himself said he saw the defeat as just Round 1.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
President Obama gestures next to Vice President Joe Biden, as he speaks during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, on Wednesday, about the defeat in the Senate of a bill to expand background checks on guns.

The fight for more gun control isn’t dead. At least, that’s what advocates claim.

They’ve gone through the so-called stages of grief: Denial (what else would you call the remark by Sen. Joe Manchin (D) of West Virginia to MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, “We’re gonna pass this”?). Anger (did you read shooting victim and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s op-ed to The New York Times?). Bargaining (unseen, perhaps, but backroom deal attempts and last-minute pleas were many). Depression (did you see President Obama’s face in the Rose Garden after the Senate defeat?). And now – with the decision by Senate majority leader Harry Reid to deep-freeze the issue by pulling the entire gun bill from the Senate floor – acceptance.

But while gun-control proponents may have conceded defeat in the Senate, they’re insisting the war isn’t over: It’s just moving to other fronts – like states, the executive branch, and the airwaves.

“This effort is not over,” Mr. Obama said in remarks Wednesday after the gun bill’s defeat. “I see this as just Round 1.”

Here are three ways that gun-control supporters will try to carry on their fight.

Executive action. “Even without Congress, my administration will keep doing everything it can to protect more of our communities,” Obama said in the Rose Garden shortly after the Senate’s gun vote. “We're going to address the barriers that prevent states from participating in the existing background-check system.”

It’s as if, disgusted by Congress, Obama decided to take matters into his own hands. And it's not the first time he's taken the initiative on gun-control measures: In January, he announced 23 executive actions on guns.

This time his first target, perhaps not surprisingly, is background checks. And he’s homing in on ensuring that mentally ill people are denied access to firearms. That’s because the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s current background-check system has many holes. According to the Associated Press, a federal review revealed that 17 states sent fewer than 10 mental-health records to the FBI’s background-check database, “meaning many deemed by a judge to be a danger still could have access to guns.”

That’s partly due to lack of enforcement and partly due to health privacy laws that prevent some states from providing information on mental-health illnesses to national databases. (Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, health-care providers are limited in what, and how much, medical information can be released to authorities.)

Obama has said he will use executive action, if possible, to allow disclosure of mental-health records, potentially giving states financial incentives for reporting mental-health information to national databases.

Airwaves: The National Rifle Association is not the only player handing out ratings. (As you know, the NRA doles out letter grades to politicians based on their voting record on guns, reinforcing pro-gun lawmakers and warning those who support gun control.)

Now, pro-gun-control groups are taking a page from the NRA’s playbook, taking to the airwaves in an attempt to paint those who voted against background checks as soft on crime.

Leading the charge are two groups: Obama’s own campaign group, Organizing for Action, which has said it will organize campaigns against both Democrats and Republicans who opposed the background-check bill; and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group cofounded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which bankrolled many gun-control campaigns ahead of the Senate vote.

“Today and for the foreseeable future, mayors and supporters and survivors and some pretty outraged citizens will be letting senators know they’re paying attention,” Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, told The New York Times. “And their memories are long.”

Among the first ads to hit the Twitter universe: a “wanted" poster by Mr. Glaze’s group featuring the four Democrats who voted against background checks – Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Max Baucus of Montana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Mark Begich of Alaska – with the title, “The Soft on Crime Caucus.”

States: As the Decoder reported Thursday, the next front in the gun-control battle appears to be at the state level. There, authorities are forging ahead with gun-control bills even as federal legislation hits a wall.

Some 11 states are considering or have already passed tougher gun laws – New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Oregon, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland.

Moving the fight to the state level forces groups like the NRA “to fight back in multiple jurisdictions, spreading out its resources rather than concentrating them in Washington,” the LA Times reports. “For another, it allows states, cities and counties to create restrictions that are tailored to their populations and politics.”

The fight may go on, but for now, it appears “Round 2” will be a far less ambitious effort than Round 1.

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