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Why Gun Control Is Basically Dead

A year after Newtown, it’s easier to buy a gun. Why the firearm crackdown never happened

On Dec. 14, gun control advocates will mark the one-year anniversary of the Newtown elementary school massacre by gathering at events in 35 states and ringing bells. “Moms won’t be silent anymore,” says Shannon Watts. In response to Newtown, Watts started Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a grassroots organization that has become the most visible new player in the gun debate. “Something changed after Sandy Hook,” she says of the grade school where 20 children and six adults were killed in a matter of minutes by a troubled young man armed with a Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle. “We can’t unring that bell, and we will be heard. This is not the America I want for my children.”

For all her heartfelt emotion, the fight over firearms hasn’t gone well for Watts and her allies. In a humbling political defeat for President Obama, congressional Republicans last spring blocked attempts to enact new federal gun restrictions. Lawmakers had some success in a handful of states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and New York toughened background-check rules and/or banned certain large-capacity weapons. In Colorado, where 12 people were killed in a mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater in 2012, the legislature instituted comprehensive background checks and limited ammunition capacity to 15 rounds per magazine.