On December 14, 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., sparking an ongoing national conversation about guns and gun control legislation involving government leaders, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, Second Amendment supporters, the families of the children killed and more.
The president, speaking in his State of the Union address on Feb. 12, said that although the country has debated ways to reduce gun violence many times before, "This time is different."
In the wake of the shooting, state and federal leaders have reacted with hundreds of bills addressing various aspects of gun violence, from mental health to background checks and violent video games. Some of these have passed, while many more have fallen to the wayside.
Here's a sampling of some of the gun-related conversations that have recently taken place or are currently taking place in statehouses around the U.S.
Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, sponsored HB76 during the 2013 legislative session. The bill would allow weapons to be concealed without a permit.
Mathis told the Deseret News that he proposed the bill because a hunter was "harassed quite heavily" by authorities for putting on a raincoat while carrying a gun, and that the bill would address the issue of covering an open carry weapon when not in possession of a concealed carry permit.
Current law allows anyone over 18 to openly carry a weapon and requires a concealed weapons permit for those who want to shield their weapons from view, except in their vehicles.
Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed the bill on March 22, saying it was not a good policy to change. The bill passed with a veto-proof majority, however, and for the legislature to convene in an override session, a poll would need to be taken of both the House and Senate with two-thirds of all members consenting.
New York became the first state to change its laws in the wake of the Newtown school shooting, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing a new gun control bill in January and subsequently kicking off efforts to roll back unworkable portions of the law.
"I am proud to be part of this government, not just because New York has the first bill, but because New York has the best bill," Cuomo said at the time. "I'm proud to be a New Yorker because New York is doing something — because we are fighting back."
The bill broadened the definition of what is considered an assault weapon, reduced the permissible size of gun magazines from 10 rounds to seven, imposed stiffer penalties on people who use guns to commit crimes and included provisions on keeping firearms away from mentally ill people, The New York Times reported.
In the months since the bill passed, Cuomo has indicated that he is willing to ease restrictions on the maximum legal capacity of gun magazines, since seven-round magazines are not widely manufactured. Instead of requiring seven rounds, Cuomo said he and legislative leaders would allow the sale of 10-round magazines but forbid citizens from loading more than seven rounds into those magazines. It was the second challenge levied against the magazine limit, after the statute failed to exempt law enforcement officers.
Physiatrists, county officials and law enforcement groups have also stepped forward to question a portion of the law that would require mental health professionals to report when a patient is a potential danger to himself or others, USA Today reported Sunday. The county reportedly receives the information, decides whether or not to approve it, and if so, sends it to a state database. Local law enforcement officials must then suspend or revoke a gun license and remove the gun owner's firearms.
"When you do a complicated piece of legislation, once it's out and once it's second-guessed and once it's viewed in total hindsight, you will find grammatical errors, you will find confusing things in a bill," Cuomo said.
On March 8, South Dakota passed a law allowing schools to appoint a trained person — a school employee, a hired security officer or a volunteer — to act as a school "sentinel" and carry a gun on campus
Rep. Scott Craig, who sponsored the bill, said the legislation particularly had the support of people in rural counties because school districts located 20-45 minutes away from the nearest sheriff feel vulnerable.
The law would require the sentinels to undergo training with police.
"Many small towns have no city police force at all, but instead rely upon the county sheriffs and their deputies," president of the Winner School District school board Mike Calhoon told Heartland. "Some of these schools have a response time of as much as 45 minutes. So many things could happen in a defenseless school building in that amount of time. Having an appointed sentinel bearing a firearm would at least give those remote schools a chance to defend themselves."
In January 2013, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced an assault weapons ban that would prohibit the sale, transfer, importation and manufacture of 157 enumerated weapons, as well as ban ammunition magazines that held more than 10 rounds.
The bill excluded 2,258 "legitimate hunting and sporting rifles and shotguns by specific make and model" that would still be legal. The bill would have grandfathered in weapons legally owned on the day of enactment, USA Today reported.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., later told Feinstein that she could introduce her bill as an amendment to the final gun control bill that would go to the Senate floor, and later said the amendment had no chance of passing.
"Right now, her amendment, using the most optimistic numbers, has less than 40 votes. That's not 60," Reid said. "I have to get something on the floor so we can have votes on that issue and the other issues that I've talked about. That's what I'm going to try to do."
The full list of gun control bills introduced in New Jersey, as of Sunday, stood around 76, with each addressing things like the sale of ammunition, magazine capacity and mental health screenings before purchases.
In Dec. 2012, Democratic Sen. Richard Codey announced plans to introduce legislation that would require the state to disinvest from companies that manufacture or sell "assault-style" weapons and would ban investment in those companies in the future.
"While the gun control problem calls for changes in our laws at the federal level, the state cannot be complicit by investing in companies that manufacture or sell military-style weapons to the general public," Codey said. "Our first step should be to disinvest from any companies that we may have in uor portfolio that produce or sell these guns but also to ban investments going forward. Sometimes the economic boycotting of companies can have a real impact on these kinds of problems."
According to The Associated Press, New Jersey's pension funds are not currently invested directly in firms that own any major gun or ammunitions companies. Although the pension investment fund invested $125,000 in Olin Corp., which manufactures Winchester ammunition, in August, it sold the stocks two months later.
Current New Jersey pension fund restrictions keep the state from putting money into firms with ties to the governments in Iran and the Sudan.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three gun bills into law on March 20, limiting ammunition magazines to 15 rounds, requiring universal background checks and charging gun customers for the cost of the checks.
The reaction to the signing of the bills has been swift.
Magpul Industries, which manufactures ammunition magazines, previously threatened to move out of the state if Hickenlooper signed the magazine legislation, and now the company is making good on its threats. According to The Denver Post, the company will manufacture its first magazine outside of Colorado within 30 days of the signing.
The company criticized Hickenlooper and Colorado legislators on its Facebook page, saying they used half-truths and distorted statistics to support the limits on magazine sizes. The company also started a program called "Boulder Airlift," which is working to "ensure that responsible Colorado residents who want to own standard capacity magazines have the opportunity to do so."
Additionally, county-level officers have said the measures are impossible to carry out because they're poorly written and don't clearly define the elements of a crime, Bloomberg reported. A USA Today article published Wednesday reported that hunters across the country are planning to boycott the state because of its legislation.
"The Democrats have just handed me a sledgehammer, and I get to walk through their china shop in the 2014 election," Rocky Mountain Gun Owners director Dudley Brown told The Denver Post.
On the other end of the gun control spectrum, Colorado Sen. Kent Lambert proposed a bill in January that would require movie theaters and shopping malls that ban concealed weapons to provide their own armed security.
"A lot of the places that have mass shootings, acts of violence, are so-called gun free zones," Lambert said. "If a venue decides not to allow people to carry, that's within their rights. But then I think they should pick up the responsibility of protecting their customers."
If businesses open to the public do not hire armed guards, they would be liable for any lawsuits filed resulting in personal injury, Lambert told The Gazette.
According to the Colorado legislative website, the bill was introduced, assigned to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and then postponed indefinitely.
Missouri lawmakers answered the call for increased gun legislation by pushing legislation that would prevent enforcement of President Barack Obama's 23 gun-related executive actions, or make it a felony to propose legislation violating the Second Amendment.
SB 150, proposed by Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, would prevent the enforcement of the president's executive actions on gun control. In its original form, the bill would have criminalized the enforcement of all federal gun laws, but those provisions were revised and narrowed to the executive orders, the St. Louis CBS affiliate reported on March 6.
In the Missouri House, Republican Rep. Mike Leara introduced a bill which read, "Any member of the general assembly who proposes a piece of legislation that further restricts the right of an individual to bear arms, as set forth under the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, shall be guilty of a class D felony."
"I filed HB 633 as a matter of principle and as a statement in defense of the Second Amendment rights of all Missourians," Leara told Talking Points Memo. "I have no illusions about the bill making it through the legislative process, but I want it to be clear that the Missouri House will stand in defense of the people's constitutional right to keep and bear arms."
Lawmakers have also sought to expand the definition of gun rights in the state's constitution to include the right to bear arms in defense of family, in addition to home, person and property.
In Tennessee, the national push for increased gun control legislation came around the same time as the conclusion of a four-year battle between business owners and gun rights advocates.
On March 1, USA Today reported that the Tennessee House of Representatives approved a bill that would let handgun owners with permits carry their weapons in their cars anywhere they go. Gov. Bill Haslam, R-Tenn., signed the bill on March 15.
According to The Tennessean, businesses and gun rights groups fought over the legislation meant to bar employers from keeping their workers from storing guns in their cars in company parking lots. The bill removes criminal penalties for carrying a firearm in a car on private property without permission, but left open the question of whether an employer could fire someone for bringing a gun to work.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey inserted a letter of intent saying the bill does not change the sate's employment-at-will doctrine, but does allow workers to make a wrongful discharge claim if fired solely because they were carrying a gun, The Tennessean reported. It also includes a provision meant to keep businesses from being sued in the event of a workplace shooting or if the weapon is stolen.
Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat hailed early Washington overtures toward increased gun control in the state as "common sense," but 14 days later began singing a different tune thanks to a bill that "went too far."
The bill Westneat took issue with was SB 5737, an assault weapons ban introduced by three Seattle Democrats. The bill would ban the sale of semi-automatic weapons that use detachable ammunition magazines and would make clips that contain more than 10 rounds illegal.
However, the bill also included this paragraph: "In order to continue to possess an assault weapon that was legally possessed on the effective date of this section, the person possessing shall . . . safely and securely store the assault weapon. The sheriff of the county may, no more than once per year, conduct an inspection to ensure compliance with this subsection."
"In other words, come into homes without a warrant to poke around. Failure to comply could get you up to a year in jail," Westneat translated. "I have been blasting the NRA for its paranoia in the gun-control debate. But . . . you can't fully blame them, when cops going door-to-door shows up in legislation."
Westneat spoke with two of the sponsors, Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, and Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle., about the provision. Kline said hadn't read the bill closely before signing on, and didn't know that provision was in there, and Murray said the provision is probably unconstitutional. A Senate Democratic spokesman later said a new bill would be introduced.
Wyoming moved quickly as national calls for gun control legislation began, introducing legislation that would ban the federal government from enforcing an assault weapons ban or a prohibition on high-capacity magazines in the state.
Rep. Kendell Kroeker introduced the bill, which could put federal agents in prison for up to five years as well as hit them with a $5,000 fine.
"We take the Second Amendment seriously in Wyoming," Kroeker said. "I take an oath to uphold, support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of Wyoming. I believe it is my duty to take that oath seriously. If the federal government is going to pass laws taking back our rights, it is our right as a state to defend those rights."
Reuters reported on Feb. 1 that the Wyoming House of Representatives passed Kroeker's bill. According to Wyoming's legislative tracking service, the bill was placed on general file and was not considered in Committee of the Whole.
Shortly after the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, The Journal News in New York used public records to compile and publish the names and addresses of all the individuals who owned a handgun or pistol permit in its coverage area, drawing swift condemnation and legislative reactions in several states.
On Wednesday, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed one of those legislative reactions, making information regarding permits — including those who have acquired a permit to purchase a handgun and those who have obtained a concealed handgun permit — accessible only to law enforcement.
According to The Daily Caller, residents in 36 other states already have similar confidentiality law protections in place. The bill will now go to the Senate for consideration.
A similar bill in the Senate was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary at the beginning of February.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced a $12 million national ad campaign targeting senators he thinks might be persuaded to support federal gun regulations. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., is one target, but people in North Carolina are skeptical, Fox Charlotte reported Tuesday.
In January, Gov. Martin O'Mallery, D-Md., announced that his administration's goal for the legislative session would be to enact "common-sense gun safety measures" like banning "military-style" assault weapons and limiting high-capacity magazines.
Specifically, O'Malley's proposal would ban all assault weapons, limit magazine capacity at 10 rounds and put in place stronger licensing requirements on handgun purchases and restrictions on the possession of guns and ammunition. The bill would also strengthen protections against purchases by the mentally ill.
The Maryland Senate voted on Feb. 28 to approve O'Malley's legislation, sending the bill to the House for debate.
As of Tuesday, the House was conflicted, with lawmakers struggling over the proposal to limit the capacity of magazines to 10 bullets and the possibility of limiting the scope of the proposed assault-weapons ban.
One of the largest gun manufacturers in the U.S., Beretta USA, warned that a ban on Beretta's product could encourage the company to move, and told legislators that it's worth noting that other states courting the company don't blame a product for human misconduct.
According to the Baltimore Sun, at least seven other states have courted Maryland's gun manufacturers. Beretta would take around 300 jobs and its tax money out of the state, as well as plans to invest $73 million in Maryland, should the law pass, Beretta's general counsel said during a Feb. 7 testimony to lawmakers.
Competing gun legislation is headed for a grand finale in the Georgia House and Senate, with the end of the General Assembly's legislative session due to hit Thursday.
Although stricter gun control measures have been introduced in the state, all eyes are on two House and Senate bills as lawmakers work to hammer out an agreement. In the Senate, leaders have approved legislation that would, among other things, require Georgia to recognize permits to carry firearms issued by other states, the Marietta Daily Journal reported Wednesday. In the House, legislation would allow students with a license to carry a firearm on parts of college campuses.
The Huffington Post reported that the House legislation would make Georgia the sixth state to allow concealed carry on most parts of college campuses, including classrooms and dining halls, although guns would be banned in dorms, at athletic events and in fraternity and sorority houses.
Rep. Butch Parrish wrote that the House bill would also allow guns in unsecured government buildings and K-12 schools — although not in areas designated as school safety zones, where only authorized school administrators could carry weapons. Churches would be able to "opt in" to allow people to bring in firearms rather than being required to allow guns.
Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid effectively stopped Sen. Dianne Feinstein's assault weapons ban from seeing the light of day, gun control legislation that includes a proposal for universal background checks appears to be moving forward.
The bill, according to Reid, will include provisions on background checks, school safety and gun trafficking. He also promised that amendments, including ones that push for a ban on assault weapons, limits to high-capacity magazines and mental health provisions, will receive votes.
The foundation of the bill is provided by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who has included a provision that requires records to be kept of all gun sales in the nation.
According to The Atlantic Wire, the Senate will likely vote on three elements: a measure to increase penalties for illegal gun sales, increased funding for school protection and universal background checks. Background checks are likely to be the sticking point, The Huffington Post reported, with the two largest Senate players — Schumer and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. — disagreeing over how the checks would be conducted and whether records would be kept of firearm transactions.
Charles C.W. Cooke, writing at National Review, said Schumer's S. 374, "Protecting Responsible Gun Sellers Act of 2013," represents "a direct blow to Americans' right to keep and bear arms without excessive government interference."
According to Cooke's reading of the bill, a gun owner would be committing a felony if he or she leaves his firearm with a roommate or landlord, etc., for more than seven days. It would also, Cooke said, make it illegal to lend a gun to a friend so he or she could go shooting, impact the sharing of guns on hunting trips and give individuals 24 hours in which to report the theft or loss of a weapon.
Leaders of the state closest to the Newtown, Conn., tragedy have been working toward measures to address gun violence and mental health issues, but agreements have been hard to reach.
A variety of factors could be responsible for the slow legislative place in the state. Connecticut currently has some of the strictest gun control measures in the U.S., and lawmakers say the state's relatively moderate politics, bipartisan lawmaking and a commitment to involve both political parties in the final decision have slowed efforts to move forward.
"My mantra at the beginning was it is important to act quickly, but it is more important to act intelligently," Democratic House speaker Brendan Sharkey told The New York Times. "I'm personally very confident that what we produce will give Connecticut the strongest gun safety legislation in the country when we're done."
Republicans and Democrats, working on a legislative task force, have both called for universal background checks, greater safe-storage requirements and more requirements for buying ammunition. Democrats, according to The New York Times, are also seeking to expand the existing assault-weapons ban to cover a broader array of weapons and for a ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
As of Tuesday, legislative leaders were saying a vote on gun control measures will likely take place next week, WTNH reported.