Sandy Hook Promise
Sandy Hook Promise

Gun control after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting
After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, multiple gun laws were proposed in the United States at the federal and state levels. The shooting renewed

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After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, multiple gun laws were proposed in the United States at the federal and state levels. The shooting renewed debate about gun control. The debates focused on requiring background checks on all firearm sales (called universal background checks), and on passing new and expanded assault weapon and high-capacity magazine bans.

Contents Background

On December 14, 2012, twenty children and seven adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.[1] It was the deadliest primary or secondary school shooting,[2] the third-deadliest mass shooting by a single person,[3] and one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.[4]

Initial response Main article: Reactions to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting

Within hours of the shooting, a We the People user started a petition asking the White House to "immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress,"[5][6] and the gun control advocacy group the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence reported that an avalanche of donations caused its website to crash.[7] That afternoon, President Barack Obama made a televised statement offering condolences on behalf of the nation to Connecticut governor, Dannel Malloy and saying, "we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."[8] Speaking at a December 16 memorial service in Newtown, Obama said he would "use whatever power this office holds" to prevent similar tragedies.[9] By December 17, the White House petition had more than 150,000 signatures,[6] and one week after the shooting it had almost 200,000, along with those on 30 similar petitions.[10]

A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted days after the shooting showed "mixed results" regarding public opinion on firearm laws.[11] While public support for strengthening gun laws rose 15 percent compared to a similar poll in 2011, there had been "little change in attitudes about some longstanding proposals, including the outlawing of assault rifles." A law requiring background checks for all gun-show sales was favored by 92 percent of Americans and a law banning the sale and possession of high-capacity magazines (defined by the poll as those capable of holding more than 10 rounds) was supported by 62 percent of Americans. A record-high 74 percent opposed a ban on handguns and 51 percent opposed banning assault weapons.[12]

White House actions

On December 19, 2012, President Obama announced the formation of an inter-agency gun-violence task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden.[13] The task force held 22 meetings and collected ideas from 229 organizations.[14]

The NRA and congressional Republicans said that violent video games were a large part of the problem, but those did not end up on the final list of recommendations.[14] After meeting with Biden, the NRA issued a statement saying that it was "disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment."[15]

On January 16, 2013, President Obama announced a plan for reducing gun violence in four parts: closing background check loopholes; banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; making schools safer; and increasing access to mental health services.[16][17]:2 The plan included 23 executive actions, signed immediately by the president, and 12 proposals for Congress.[18]

The executive actions signed by President Obama were:[19]

The White House's proposed congressional actions were these:[19]

The proposals were opposed by the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF),[20] and opposition was expected by Republican and some Democratic legislators.[18][21]

Advocacy groups actions

On December 21, 2012 - between the formation of Biden's task force and the announcement of Obama's proposals - Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), expressed the gun-rights group's sympathy for the families of Newtown. LaPierre said that gun-free school zones attract killers, and that "the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws, and fill the national media with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action." He said, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," and that debating legislation that won't work would be a waste of time. He called on Congress "to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation" so that every school in America would be safe when pupils returned to school in January 2013. LaPierre announced that the NRA would develop a National Model School Shield Program for every American school that wants it.[22]

After LaPierre's press conference, the Brady Campaign asked for donations to support its gun control advocacy and asked NRA members "who believe like we do, that we are better than this" to join its campaign.[23] On January 8, 2013, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot and injured in a 2011 shooting in Tucson, launched Americans for Responsible Solutions to raise money for gun control efforts to counter the influence of powerful pro-gun groups such as the NRA.[24]

Congressional action Proposed assault weapons ban Main article: Assault Weapons Ban of 2013

On January 24, 2013, Senator Dianne Feinstein and 24 Democratic cosponsors introduced S. 150, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 (AWB 2013).[25][26] It was similar to the expired 1994 federal ban, but differed in that it used a one-feature test for a firearm to be considered an assault weapon, rather than the two-feature test of the 1994 ban.[27] Gun-control advocates said the stricter test would make the weapons less appealing to gun enthusiasts.[26] In addition, it would have banned:

It would have grandfathered in weapons legally owned on the day of enactment and exempted 2,258 specific firearms "used for hunting or sporting purposes," of which only 33 were semiautomatic centerfire rifles.[27][28]

Feinstein wanted the grandfathered firearms registered under the National Firearms Act, which currently registers machineguns, silencers and short barreled shotguns.[29][30][31]

On March 14, 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill, though it was not expected to clear the full Senate or the House.[32][33] Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to leave the proposed ban out of the broader gun control bill, saying that it was unlikely to win 40 votes in the 100-member chamber and that it would jeopardize more widely supported proposals.[34][35] On the morning of April 17, 2013, the bill failed on a vote of 40 to 60. It was supported by Democrat Reid and Republican Senator Mark Kirk, but 15 Democrats, one independent, and all the Republicans except Kirk voted against the ban.[34][36]

Proposed universal background checks

The Manchin-Toomey Amendment was a bi-partisan piece of legislation sponsored by Joe Manchin, a Democrat, and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey that would require background checks on most private party firearm sales.[37] The bill known as Manchin Amendment No. 715 was voted on and defeated on April 17, 2013 by a vote of 54 - 46. It needed 60 votes to pass.[38]

State actions See also: Gun laws in the United States by state and State assault weapon bans

As of April 3, 2013[update], only five states had passed stricter gun control laws, while ten states had passed laws that weakened restrictions on firearms.[39]


In the early morning hours of April 4, 2013, the Connecticut General Assembly passed new restrictions to the state's existing assault weapons ban. Governor Dannel Malloy signed them into law later the same day.[40] The law banned the sale or purchase of magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition like those used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and required universal background checks for all firearm purchases.[41]

Gun owners challenged the law, but federal judge Alfred Covello upheld the law, ruling it constitutional and writing, "While the act burdens the plaintiffs' Second Amendment rights, it is substantially related to the important governmental interest of public safety and crime control." Gun owners said they would appeal.[42]

In February 2014, the Hartford Courant reported that Connecticut had processed about 50,000 assault weapons certificates, but that anywhere from 50,000 to 350,000 remained unregistered. "And that means," wrote the Courant's Dan Haar, "as of Jan. 1, Connecticut has very likely created tens of thousands of newly minted criminals — perhaps 100,000 people, almost certainly at least 20,000 — who have broken no other laws."[43] Frank Miniter wrote in an April 2014 Forbes op-ed "that more than 300,000 Connecticut residents decided not to register their 'assault weapons,' moved them out of state, or sold them."[44]

New York

In January 2013, New York became the first U.S. state to act after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act passed in the state Senate 43-18 on January 15 and cleared the New York State Assembly after about five hours of debate on Tuesday, January 16. It was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo one hour later. The act expanded the definition of assault weapons banned in New York, created a state database for pistol permits, reduced the maximum number of rounds legally allowed in magazines to seven from ten, and required universal background checks on all gun sales.[45]

A dozen Republican conference members voted for the measure, but its Senate Republican leader did not attend the signing ceremony.[45] The NRA called the assembly's actions "a secretive end run around the legislative and democratic process ... with no committee hearings and no public input," and said the law was "draconian."[45]

In a related move, the state comptroller announced that the state's pension fund would freeze its investments in publicly traded firearm manufacturers. The fund's holdings in Smith & Wesson had been sold in December, after the Connecticut shootings.[45]

Provisions of the SAFE Act have been challenged. On December 31, 2013, a federal court judge struck down the act's limit of seven rounds in magazines capable of holding 10, but upheld its expanded ban on assault weapons.[46] As of April 2014 that decision was under appeal, and another challenge, that the bill was improperly fast-tracked, was dismissed by a trial-level judge. The plaintiff said that he will take that decision to the New York Court of Appeals.[47]

Non-compliance with this new law has been reported in New York. Frank Miniter wrote in an April 2014 Forbes op-ed that one million residents own "assault weapons" and "high-capacity magazines" (which he says are political terms). He wrote that many had decided to practice civil disobedience and not register their weapons, a class A misdemeanor with a potential sentence of one year in prison.[44] USA Today reported that some owners threatened not to register their weapons, and that some chose to bypass registration by modifying or selling them before the April 15 deadline. State police say they cannot report how many people have registered. By law, they must keep their database of assault weapon owners private.[48]


Late on April 4, 2013, the Maryland General Assembly passed Governor Martin O'Malley's gun control bill, the Firearm Safety Act of 2013. It bans the purchase of 45 types of assault weapons and limits gun magazines to 10 rounds. It requires handgun licensing and fingerprinting for new gun owners, and bans those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility from buying a gun.[49]

  1. ^ Barron, James (December 15, 2012). "Children Were All Shot Multiple Times With a Semiautomatic, Officials Say". New York Times. New York Times Company. Retrieved April 12, cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  2. ^ Effron, Lauren (December 14, 2012). "Mass School Shootings: A History". ABC News. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
  3. ^ Candiotti, Susan; Ford, Dana (December 16, 2012). "Connecticut school victims were shot multiple times". Cable News Network. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
  4. ^ CNN Library (October 26, 2013). "25 Deadliest Mass Shootings in U.S. History Fast Facts". Cable News Network. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
  5. ^ Bruce, Mary (December 14, 2012). "Petition Calls on White House to Address Gun Control". ABC News.
  6. ^ a b Wing, Nick (December 17, 2012). "White House Gun Control Petition Becomes Site's Most Popular Ever". Huffington Post. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
  7. ^ New, Catherine (December 14, 2012). "Anti-Gun Donations Surge After Connecticut Shooting". The Huffington Post. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  8. ^ Barack Obama (December 14, 2012). President Obama Makes a Statement on the Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut (video). Washington, D.C.: Retrieved April 13, 2014.
  9. ^ Landler, Mark; Baker, Peter (December 16, 2012). "'These Tragedies Must End,' Obama Says". New York Times. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
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  14. ^ a b Rucker, Philip; Wallsten, Peter (January 19, 2013). "Biden's gun task force met with all sides, but kept its eye on the target". Washington Post. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  15. ^ Madhani, Aamer (January 10, 2013). "NRA blasts Biden's gun task force after meeting". USA Today. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  16. ^ "Now Is the Time". The White House. January 16, 2013. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  17. ^ "Now Is the Time: Gun Violence Reduction Executive Actions" (PDF). The White House. January 16, 2013. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  18. ^ a b MacAskill, Ewen; Pilkington, Ed (January 17, 2013). "NRA promises 'fight of the century' over Obama's bold gun control plan". Guardian. Guardian News and Media Ltd. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  19. ^ a b "What's in Obama's Gun Control Proposal". New York Times. January 16, 2013. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  20. ^ Horwitz, Sari (January 16, 2013). "NRA planning 'the fight of the century' against Obama". Washington Post. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  21. ^ Meckler, Laura; Nicholas, Peter; Nelson, Colleen McCain (January 16, 2013). "Obama's Gun Curbs Face a Slog in Congress". Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  22. ^ LaPierre, Wayne (December 21, 2012). "Remarks from the NRA press conference on Sandy Hook school shooting, delivered on Dec. 21, 2012 (Transcript)". Washington Post. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  23. ^ Connor, Tracy; Isikoff, Michael (December 21, 2012). "Disbelief in some quarters after NRA calls for armed guards at every school, blames movies". Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  24. ^ "Gabrielle Giffords launches gun control campaign". BBC. January 8, 2013. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
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  26. ^ a b Freedman, Dan (January 24, 2013). "Feinstein offers new assault weapons ban". Houston Chronicle. Hearst Newspapers. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  27. ^ a b c Kucinich, Jackie (January 24, 2013). "Democrats reintroduce assault weapons ban". USA Today. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
  28. ^ Chebium, Raju (January 24, 2013). "Feinstein wants public's help to pass assault weapons ban". NEWS10. Gannett Washington Bureau.
  29. ^ Author unknown (December 26, 2012). "Summary of 2013 Feinstein Assault Weapons Legislation". Two-page summary of bill points from four weeks before it was introduced to Senate. Unpublished.
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  32. ^ Steinhauer, Jennifer (March 14, 2013). "Party-Line Vote in Senate Panel for Ban on Assault Weapons". New York Times. Retrieved April 15, 2014.
  33. ^ "Senate committee approves assault weapons ban". Fox News Network. March 14, 2013.
  34. ^ a b Simon, Richard (April 17, 2013). "Senate votes down Feinstein's assault weapons ban". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 15, 2014.
  35. ^ Warren, James (April 17, 2013). "Sen. Dianne Feinstein says Daily News 'SHAME ON U.S.' front page 'carries the message' of assault weapons ban". New York Daily News. Retrieved April 15, 2014.
  36. ^ "Senate Vote 101 - Rejects Feinstein Proposal to Reinstate Assault Weapons Ban". ProPublica. Pro Publica Inc. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  37. ^ Lengell, Sean (April 24, 2013). "Leaks hurt gun control bill, Sen. Pat Toomey says". Washington Times. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
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  39. ^ Hartmann, Margaret (April 3, 2013). "Post-Newtown, States Passed More Gun-Rights Laws, Not Restrictions". New York Magazine. New York Media. Retrieved April 15, 2014.
  40. ^ "Connecticut Governor Signs Gun Measures". New York Times. Associated Press. April 4, 2013. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
  41. ^ Mungin, Lateef; Brady, Britanny (April 4, 2013). "Connecticut governor signs sweeping gun measure". Cable News Network. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
  42. ^ Pazniokas, Mark (January 30, 2014). "Federal judge upholds Sandy Hook gun law". Connecticut Mirror. Connecticut News Project. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
  43. ^ Haar, Dan (February 10, 2014). "Dan Haar: Untold Thousands Flout Gun Registration Law". Courant. Hartford, Connecticut: Hartford Courant. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  44. ^ a b Miniter, Frank (April 13, 2014). "As Many As One Million Armed New Yorkers Are About To Break The Law". Forbes (op-ed). Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  45. ^ a b c d Seiler, Casey (January 16, 2013). "New gun law offers reply to mass killings: State becomes the first in the nation to act after horror of Newtown, Conn". Times Union. Albany, New York: Hearst Corporation. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  46. ^ Spector, Joseph (December 31, 2013). "Federal court upholds N.Y. ban on assault weapons". USA Today. Gannett Albany Bureau. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  47. ^ Klepper, David (April 16, 2014). "Judge upholds New York's tougher gun law". Times Union. Hearst Corporation. Associated Press. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  48. ^ Campbell, Jon (April 13, 2014). "Deadline leaves N.Y. gun owners with a choice". USA Today. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  49. ^ Jackson, Alex (April 5, 2013). "Maryland lawmakers send landmark gun control bill to O'Malley's desk". Annapolis, Maryland: Retrieved April 16, 2014.
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