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In The Year After Newtown Shooting, Most States Relaxed Gun Laws


Since the Newtown shootings, the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns has spent upwards of $15 million on ads supporting tougher gun laws and on candidate ads around this issue. Most of that money comes from New York City Mayor Michael Blumberg. One year later, we're going to check in on what the results have been. Mark Glaze is the coalition's executive director and he joins me here in the studio. Welcome.

MARK GLAZE: Thanks for having me.

BLOCK: When the Newtown shootings happened last year, did you assume that this would be a watershed moment, really, for the country in how it thinks about guns and gun laws?

GLAZE: We did and it has been, I think, a watershed in all those ways. The country is much more educated and cares much more about the issue than it did before, according to some polls. The thing that didn't change as much as we hoped it would was the gun laws that the Congress passed, but, you know, the Congress is not capable of passing much these days.

So we, in our office, were not particularly surprised. I think this is going to be a project of several sessions of Congress to get it completely done, but I think we will get it done. And at the same time, we are moving forward in places like Colorado as you just discussed.

BLOCK: Well, let's talk about what's going on at the state level because there was a big full-page graphic in today's New York Times with the headline: State Gun Laws Enacted In Year Since Newtown. It says there were 1,500 bills introduced. Of those, 109 have become law. And here's what's really striking about it: Of those 109, two-thirds of them actually loosened gun restricts or expand the rights of gun owners.

So you could conclude that really the country is rejecting, is moving away from the positions that you're pushing on this.

GLAZE: Not really because I think about this issue as a cruise ship headed toward an iceberg and it's been doing that under the captainship of the NRA for a generation. And it will turn very slowly, but we think it's turning in the right direction. And the reason you know that is, the country is, according to polling, much more aware of the gun laws.

They're much more in favor of specific gun laws that we think would make the most difference. You ask people about gun control, they sort of don't know what it means. They're half for it. They're half against it. What? None of them are really for it? A very small percentage is weakening the gun laws which is what the gun lobby has been doing systematically across the country for a very long time.

BLOCK: So you're looking, basically, at those numbers and you're seeing a glass at least one-third full. You're looking at those one-third of the laws that were passed that support tougher restrictions on guns.

GLAZE: Sure. This is the way progress will happen on this issue as it happens on other issues, I think, especially civil rights. It provides a good analogy her. You had to have a lot of victories in the states before you persuade the federal government to act. And I think the reason is you just have to get through the election cycle or two when politicians are dealing with what they think is a tricky issue.

We passed universal background check bills and, you know, in a handful of states - five or six - that were about moving in anything like that direction. And all of those elected officials feel that they took some risks, and some of them actually did. Part of the reason progress will take it while on this issue is that we'll have to have several election cycles.

BLOCK: Well, let's talk about the background check because the Senate, this spring, defeated a watered-down measure, a compromise measure that would have expanded background checks. That went down. President Obama called it a pretty shameful day for Washington, and this was just a few months after the Newtown shootings. What does that tell you?

GLAZE: Well, it tells me that the gun lobby has had this issue to itself for a long while. There is a core of people who are very concerned that any regulation of their right to own firearms is a regulation of freedom, they're very concerned about that and that has an impact, that small group of very concerned individuals and it should.

People on our side have to do a much better job of explaining what these laws are about, and what they do and don't do. And I think we were very successful at that. I can't remember an issue that had 90 percent of the public's support that didn't eventually become law, or some politicians lost their jobs over it. And that's what the background check issue is.

And the best thing about the Colorado story, if I may, is that it's one of the very few policy victories where you have very quick metrics demonstrating that it's a success. In just the few months that the Colorado bill has been in place, dozens of prohibited gun purchasers - people who under current law are so dangerous, they're not allowed to have a gun - have been stopped, who would've gotten those guns before.

So I think these laws will demonstrate their effectiveness over time. But more than that, people will continue buying guns at just as rapid a pace as they've been doing for the past four or five years, and the sky won't fall but Colorado will be a lot safer. And that success will pay dividends across the nation.

BLOCK: Mark Glaze is executive director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Mark, thanks so much.

GLAZE: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.