Post-Parkland, Some Unlikely States Embrace Gun Control

The mass shooting at a Florida high school may be turning the tide of gun politics as some Republicans, including President Trump, embrace the idea of gun control.
by | February 21, 2018
Students from Montgomery County, Md., rally at the U.S. Capitol in solidarity with those affected by the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Students are rallying in the Florida state capital and in the nation's capital on Wednesday in support of tighter gun control regulations. The rally is part of a student-led movement dubbed “Never Again,” which the Parkland high schoolers formed just days after a mass shooting on Valentine’s Day that left 17 of their peers and teachers dead.

The day before, Florida lawmakers declined to bring a bill banning assault weapons to the floor for immediate discussion, stoking more fury among gun control advocates.


But the wave of anger over inaction on gun control hasn’t been confined to Florida, and it may be turning the tide of gun politics as some Republicans embrace the idea of gun control.

Gun control advocates have descended in recent days on statehouses from Missouri to Vermont to Wisconsin. They have planned marches for next month in cities around the country.

The uproar has led President Donald Trump, an avid defender of the Second Amendment, to support some reforms. He ordered the Justice Department to ban rapid-firing bump stocks, which were used in last year's mass shooting in Las Vegas. He also signaled support for a gun control bill in the Senate that would create financial incentives for states to report all criminal infractions to a national background check system for gun purchases. 

Gun control proposals have also been floated, introduced or moved forward in recent days in several states, including Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Vermont.

On Tuesday, several hundred gun control advocates rallied in the Vermont state Capitol and seemed to be making headway with Republican lawmakers who previously refused to regulate gun ownership. Republican state Rep. Don Turner, the House minority leader, said his colleagues would be looking into possible ways to regulate guns, according to the Burlington Free Press.

In Ohio, a pair of Senate Democrats have introduced legislation that would ban assault rifles like the one in the Parkland shooting. Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, also changed his website, replacing parts of his pro-gun record with a call for common sense gun control. Even Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican in one of the most gun-friendly states, called for better and more thorough background check procedures in the wake of the shooting. In Florida, GOP donors and officials are pushing for some gun control measures.

But advocates aren't making headway everywhere they go.

On Tuesday, high schoolers in Wisconsin appeared with Assembly Democrats to ask the legislature to pass stricter gun controls. For years, Wisconsin Democrats have pushed for universal background checks and bills barring convicted domestic abusers from buying firearms. Meanwhile, the state's attorney general suggested that same day that teachers should be armed.

“From kindergarten, I’ve learned how to sit under a desk and be silent so a shooter doesn’t hurt us. This is not something a 5-year-old should have to think about,” Lydia Hester, a Madison East High School sophomore, told lawmakers, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

The state, like Florida, has relatively lax gun control policies, allowing for concealed carry permits and declining to regulate ammunition sales or the number of firearms that can be purchased at once. In 2015, Wisconsin repealed its mandatory 48-hour waiting period for gun purchases. (Nine states still do have a waiting period, and the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a challenge to California's.)

The Missouri statehouse also got a visit on Tuesday. Mothers from a gun control advocacy group descended on the Capitol in red shirts to call for tighter restrictions.


Missouri also has relatively lax gun control policies. It does not significantly regulate the purchase of ammunition or impose a waiting period on firearm sales.

More than a dozen states were already considering laws that would take guns away from people deemed a threat to themselves or others -- and the momentum appears to be growing.

On Tuesday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown testified in front of the legislature in favor of her gun control proposal, which passed the House the day after the Parkland shooting. The bill would expand the ban on the purchase or possession of firearms for people convicted of domestic violence or people who have restraining orders placed on them.

Currently, that ban only exists in federal law for couples who are married or share children together. The gap is often known as the “boyfriend loophole.”

Despite the small rash of gun control proposals, it remains to be seen whether this mass shooting will be a true catalyst for change. Lawmakers are less likely to pass legislation in an election year, and a majority of the states are governed by Republicans.