(Editor’s note: The following is a submission by freelance writer Dabney Bailey. Videos were added for context.)
In the wake of the biker gunfight in Waco, Texas, there’s a question on the mind of gun owners everywhere: What will be the political fallout from this high-profile bloodbath?
America has more-or-less developed a pattern with gun control policy. Every once in a while, a fatal shooting or gang-related incident will make national headlines and usher in a new a wave of anti-gun sentiment (Gun-control advocates are already saying this incident is a “wake up” call for tougher gun laws). Sometimes the fervor can make something stick; other times, it fizzles away and everything goes back to business as usual.
So, what’re the odds that politicians will capitalize on the Waco gunfight and push through stronger gun control legislation? Only time will tell, so for now all we can do is look to the past for signs of a recognizable pattern.
Sandy Hook – 2013: No Federal Laws; Multiple State Laws Passed
The Sandy Hook school shooting is arguably the biggest mass shooting event of the century. Unsurprisingly, it also led to one of the biggest gun control movements in recent memory. In fact, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence reported that their website crashed within hours of the shooting due to an incredible influx of donations. In the year following the shooting, legislators proposed 800 bills involving guns.
Several states (including Connecticut where Sandy Hook is located, New York, New Jersey, California) passed gun control measures.
On a federal level, a bill banning assault weapons and a bill that would have expanded background checks to all private transfers, including those made over the Internet and at gun shows, failed to clear the Senate.
Virginia Tech – 2007: Federal Law Passed
Seung-Hui Cho took the lives of 32 people and wounded 17 others, raising questions about gun rights, campus safety, and mental health detection.
This tragedy might have been enough for gun control advocates to gain traction, but the political response was muted compared to Sandy Hook, partially due to Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine. He was quoted as saying, “People who want to take this within 24 hours of the event and use it as a political hobbyhorse — I only have loathing for them. To those who want to make this into some sort of crusade, I say take this elsewhere.”
That being said, the House passed a bill that improved state reporting on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is used to run background checks on prospective gun purchasers.
Luby’s Shooting – 1991: Federal Law Passed, Then Ruled Unconstitutional
Twenty four people (including the shooter) died after George Hennard drove his truck into a cafeteria and opened fire in what remains the deadliest non-school shooting in America.
In response to the tragedy, Clinton passed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1993. The Supreme Court struck down the bill as unconstitutional in 1997, but to little effect. The court ruled that mandating background checks at a federal level unconstitutionally siphoned powers away from the states.
So, the act of performing background checks was still perfectly legal – states and localities continued performing background checks.
Schoolyard Shooting in Stockton, California – 1989: Federal Law Passed
Twenty-four-year-old Patrick Purdy set his car ablaze and opened fire on a school playground, killing five children and taking his own life. This incident led to the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which Bill Clinton signed into law in 1994.
What makes this case interesting is that half a decade passed between the Stockton shooting and Clinton’s signature. And even then, the bill was a weaker version of the original bill proposed by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
Following Sandy Hook, Feinstein tried to renew the Assault Weapons Ban but, as mentioned, she came up short.
Texas Tower Shooting – 1966: No Laws Passed
After engineering student Charles Whitman murdered 16 people from atop a clock tower, politicians had a somewhat muddled response.
Whitman was found to have a brain tumor, so the dialogue surrounding the tragedy shifted from frustration against guns to frustration toward those with mental health conditions.
Lawmakers proposed legislation that would impose stricter punishments against murderers found to be insane.
So, what’s all this mean?
I’m not a fortune teller, but based on the general trend of post-shooting legislation it’s fairly safe to assume that activists will not succeed in passing any long-term gun control measures on the federal level.
History has shown time and time again that anti-gun sentiment will likely die down before legislators can push a bill onto the president’s desk.
Yet while that may be the political reality it’s not an excuse for gun owners to stand by idly. Gun owner must stay active and engaged. Continue to contact your local, state and federal representatives to remind them just how important the Second Amendment is to you.