Variation in State-Level Response to School Shootings

Variation in State-Level Response to School Shootings

Ramona Sue McNeal, Mary Schmeida, Lisa Dotterweich Bryan
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4072-5.ch004
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Historically, public demand for gun control in the U.S. spikes after a mass shooting, only to wane in the proceeding months. One consequence has been limited or no changes to existing gun safety laws in many states following a tragedy. This changed in 2018 following the shooting in Parkland, Florida. Public support for gun control legislation following this event did not wane as normal, and 26 states and DC reacted with the passage of stiffer gun control policies. What explains the varying state-level respond to this and other school shooting in the U.S.? In exploring this question, the chapter examines the influence of state-level factors on gun control legislation by exploring the extent of gun control legislation by state for the years 2012 through 2018. Pooled cross-sectional time series data that controls for variation between states and over time is used.
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On December 6, 2019, Canadians solemnly observed the 30th anniversary of the mass shooting at the engineering school of the University of Montreal that resulted in the death of 14 students. Following the shooting, a coalition of 350 organizations united to create the Canadian’s Coalition for Gun Control for the purpose of pressuring the Canadian government to strengthen its gun safety policies. The government responded by creating a national firearms registry and placing additional restrictions on its existing gun sale laws. Furthermore, because the gunman targeted female students, the Canadian Parliament designated December 6th as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women (Krajicek, 2014; Hill, & Campbell, 2019). Canada has had a history of adopting strict gun safety policy which has been attributed, in part, to a relatively weak gun rights lobby. Recently, however, gun rights groups in Canada have become more active. For example, in 2012, pro-gun groups successfully lobbied the Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper to pass the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act, which weaken national gun safety standards (Brown, 2017, p.102).

Despite being neighbors, gun policy in the U.S. and Canada have pursued different trajectories. Typically, a school shooting in the U.S. is followed by a public outcry for gun safety laws that then wanes in the proceeding months and years. For example, shortly after the school shootings at Columbine and Newtown, there were spikes in public support for gun control. However, this increased demand for government action retreated to the stable pattern of declining public support that has existed since the Brady Bill was signed into law in 1993 (Newman & Hartman, 2019). It is not unexpected then, that during the periods of heightened demand for gun safety laws, there is a flurry of gun regulation bills introduced by state legislators; however, few are passed or taken up for serious consideration (Schildkraut, & Hernandez, 2014).

Not all state legislatures have followed this trend; some have taken the lead in promoting gun control policy. California is recognized as the leader in gun safety, first in gun law strength and having one of the lowest gun death rates across the states. Having passed a broad range of gun laws and domestic safety laws, California bans most assault weapons and is restrictive on the manufacturing, transfer and possession of the large capacity ammunition magazine. Except for certain areas, California has decentralized the regulation of firearms and ammunition to the local government giving locals greater control over the issue. It is considered the first state to enact a gun violence restraining order law allowing for the removal of a firearm from any person perceived having the potential to harm self or others. Recently, California Governor Newsom signed seven deterrent and restrictive gun violence prevention laws. These laws extend the existing gun violence restraining order law beyond the one-year law for up to 5 years. Another law expands the list of those persons considered eligible to file a gun violence restraining order to now include employers, employees, and coworkers of a secondary or post-secondary school. A regulation was added on the sale or transfer of precursor firearm parts. A new registry has been created for the sale of precursor parts. The maximum fee that can be charged on a concealed carry permit application has been removed in addition to the raising of fees for the purchase of firearms. The limit of purchasing one handgun a month per person law now includes the purchase of the centerfire semi-automatic rifle, and persons under 21 years of age are prohibited from purchasing a semiautomatic centerfire rifle. The California 2019-2020 budget tripled the funding for community education, outreach to youth at risk, reducing violence, prevention and safety, and to improve security for those persons targeted in the growing number of hate crimes (NRA Institute for Legislative Action, October 11, 2019; Office of Governor Gavin Newsom, October 11, 2019).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Parkland School Shooting: A school shooting that took place on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL that killed 17 students and staff members.

Non-Powder Guns: Firearms such as BB, air, pellet, expel projectiles, CO2 pressure or spring action that can kill or injure.

Framing: The process of emphasizing certain aspects of a topic when discussing the issue.

Red Flag Laws: Also referred to as extreme risk protection order is a judge order to suspend a license to possess or carry a firearm for persons believed to be a threat to self or others; permits law enforcement to remove access to a person’s firearms.

Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990: The act targets student behavior and imposes sanctions onto those knowingly bringing a firearm onto a school zone; prohibits firearm possession within 1,000 feet from K-12 school grounds.

Permitless Carry States: States in which individuals who are legally in possession of a firearm can carry guns “concealed” with no permit or license.

Institutional Agenda: The list of problems current under consideration by the government.

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