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Gun control forces seek new path after big loss

By Thomas Beaumont

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, April 20 2013 9:38 a.m. MDT

Colorado, a political swing state with a strong tradition of gun ownership, last month enacted far-reaching legislation banning large capacity ammunition magazines and requiring background checks for private sales. The state was the site of one of 2012's horrific shootings, when a gunman sprayed bullets into a packed movie theater.

More states in the Northeast appear ready to act.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, is considering signing a bill requiring background checks for private sales. Maine lawmakers are considering requiring background checks for gun-show sales. New Hampshire lawmakers are considering repealing a law giving armed citizens greater latitude in firing their weapons.

Massachusetts, New Jersey, Illinois and Rhode Island are also considering gun restriction bills.

"It's unquestionable that the trend is toward strengthening state gun laws," said Laura Cutilletta of the gun-control advocacy group Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

To be sure, more states have enacted laws this year advancing the rights of gun owners.

But those moves, all in GOP-controlled states, have been smaller in scope, in large part because most states had already enacted watershed gun bills.

In Kansas and Nebraska, for example, Republican governors have signed bills granting reciprocity for concealed-carry permit holders from any state. A number of states acted to make concealed-carry permit records confidential, and to bar local government from limiting their use. North Dakota enacted a law expanding the list of places concealed guns are allowed.

Even gun rights advocates describe the measures as narrower, a sign some of them attribute to a rising level of resistance in the states and a contraction of the gun-rights influence.

"It was a very defensive year for the gun-rights movement," said Aaron Dorr, executive director of Iowa Gun Owners. Iowa Democrats blocked the advance of minor gun-rights legislation this year.

In Wisconsin, Republicans also were on defense, despite controlling the Legislature and the governorship, unable to enhance concealed-carry rights. They did block legislation requiring background checks for all gun sales, despite appeals from families of victims of one of the two mass shootings in the state last year.

In Arizona, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer was expected to veto legislation requiring municipalities to sell confiscated guns, instead of destroying them.

It's clear the fight, already expected at the federal level in 2014, will expand to include state elections.

"We're prepared," said Jeff Nass, president of WI-Force, a Wisconsin gun-rights group. "I think their loss nationally is going to bring it home to the states next year."

On the other side, Jeri Bonavia of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort said she expects groups such as Bloomberg's Mayor's Against Illegal Guns to spread into state races with advertising pressure that could diminish the NRA's impact.

"If they do, it neutralizes the NRA's pressure, and suddenly constituent voices matter more," Bonavia said.

Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa. Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Nedra Picker contributed to this report.

Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter: http://twitter.com/nbenac and Thomas Beaumont http://twitter.com/TomBeaumont

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