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By Mick Krever, CNN
As Republicans took control of both houses of U.S. Congress on Tuesday, a key goal for President Obama has never looked further away – enacting gun control reform.
Almost exactly two years after the horrific killing of 20 children and six schoolteachers in Newtown, Connecticut, attempts by advocates to enact new gun control legislation have failed.
A new documentary by PBS Frontline, “Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA,” premiered Tuesday, and explores the history and power of the gun-rights organization.
“This is an organization that is started in America as a kind of gun safety group, a marksmanship group,” filmmaker Michael Kirk told CNN’s Fred Pleitgen, in for Christiane Amanpour, on Tuesday.
“In the 1960s, when President Kennedy was assassinated, when his brother, Bobby, was assassinated, and when Martin Luther King was killed, the government in America, the President, Lyndon Johnson, and the Congress basically enacted gun control legislation.”
“And it was at that moment that the NRA went from being a small, benign gun safety group to a tremendous political force in America.”
Is America’s National Rifle Association unbeatable?
As mass shooting after mass shooting has failed to force implementation of even the most popular gun control measures, that sentiment has almost become a truism of American politics.
For 18 years, one American congresswoman – whose own family felt the bitter reality of gun violence – has made it her mission to enact reform.
“We have come a long way from where we first started,” Carolyn McCarthy told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired Monday.
“My nemesis has been the National Rifle Association. But I also see now, today, new voices speaking out.”
The NRA, which held its annual convention this weekend, seems to be racking up victory after victory. In Georgia, a new law allows weapons in schools, churches, libraries, airports and even bars.
But gun control advocates have quietly been winning cases against the NRA, McCarthy said – cases that don’t make the news.
“The message has always been that we’re trying to take away everyone’s right to own a gun. We’re not. Never have been. It’s gun violence, gun safety that we’re trying to do.”
Nearly a year ago, 20 children and six teachers were massacred at an elementary school in the United States.
In the aftermath, Senate Democrat Chris Murphy, who represents the state, Connecticut, where the murders happened, said Congress needed to act to restrict access to guns.
“I do shudder to think what I’m going to tell some of these families if we can’t even get background checks passed in the United States Senate,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in March.
The Senate did fail to pass such a bill, despite 90% support from the American public.
Since the tragedy, the New York Times says at the state level there have been 39 new laws to restrict access to guns but a whopping 70 to make buying, owning, and carrying guns even easier.
“Something is fundamentally broken with the Senate and with democracy in general if, when 90 per cent of the American public thinks that you should just pass a basic criminal background check before buying a gun … the Senate can’t pass it,” he told CNN’s Hala Gorani, in for Christiane Amanpour, on Thursday.
By Samuel Burke, CNN
Twenty U.S. schoolchildren and six teachers were murdered in a single rampage in Newtown, Connecticut last December. With nowhere to turn, the victims’ families dedicated the next months of their lives to try to change America’s gun laws.
Some started out with the hope of comprehensive of reform, including a ban on military-style assault weapons. President Obama enlisted the families’ support, but as the months went on his proposal was quickly watered down to mainly background checks.
Ninety-one percent of Americans now support universal background checks for gun purchases, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
But now, with the defeat of a bill in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, it appears that any type of gun reform is quickly fading away. The legislation didn’t pass, even though the majority of senators – 54 out of 100 – voted in favor of the legislation.
“This is really a defining moment about American democracy,” legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday. “So many factors came together to defeat this bill.” FULL POST
Erica Lafferty lost her mother, Dawn Hochsprung, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Her mom was the principal who, instead of running from the gunfire, rushed toward it, to try and protect her students. She paid with her life.
Erica told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday that she still finds herself calling her mother’s cell phone – forgetting she’s not there to answer – only to get the voicemail message.
In the wake of the shootings, her daughter began to email and call U.S. senators, hoping to encourage a change in America’s gun laws. None of the senators replied and as a last-ditch effort she took to Twitter. She sent the politicians tweets asking them to, at the very least, bring the legislation to a vote. Slowly senators started to respond – some by Twitter, other with phone calls and meetings.
On Thursday, Erica flew to Washington D.C. and watched as gun control legislation made it to the floor for debate for the first time in more than a decade.
“It’s the first step. It’s a victory – a small one – but a victory,” she said.
Erica said she won’t stop trying to rally for changes to American gun laws.
“I know we are not going to stop, so people are going to get really sick of us” she said, “because it’s absolutely something that needs to be addressed.”
Christiane Amanpour looks at legislation coming full circle in the state of the Newtown elementary school tragedy.
In many countries, a mass-murder involving guns leads to a single thing: Stringent new laws limiting access to weapons.
A string of mass killings in the United States, including the murder of 20 children in Connecticut last December, sparked a new push for gun limitations from President Obama.
Australia had its own experience with a mass killing, in Tasmania, in 1996. A lone gunman killed 35 people in what came to be known as the Port Arthur Massacre.
The prime minister at the time, John Howard, explained how he dealt with the aftermath to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
“It was because that massacre was so terrible,” he said, “I was able to use the authority I had as a newly elected prime minister with a big majority to force the states that had the legal control over automatic and semi-automatic weapons to introduce a national ban.”
Howard was a conservative prime minister; nonetheless, he faced a large opposition, particularly in rural states. But he was able to force through the legislation by threatening to take the issue to the nation through a referendum, which he believes would have passed.
He was cautious to compare his country’s experience to America’s.
“I don't come here with any lectures,” he said. “We don't have constitutional guarantees in relation to these things,” and Australia started with a much lower gun death rate.
“However,” Howard added, “that doesn't alter the fact that our murder rate using guns has fallen and there's not much doubt in my mind that it's the availability of guns that causes such a high rate of murder using weapons.”
Tom Mauser lost his son in the 1999 Columbine school massacre in Colorado. Now, every time he looks up at the news and sees another school shooting he says he thinks the same thing to himself: “Have we not learned any lessons? Why are we not doing something to reduce this terrible gun violence?”
Mauser’s home state of Colorado has just passed new gun reforms and he says he’s “proud” of that legislation, but says he will keep on campaigning for changes to gun laws at the national level in the United States.
In the video above you can see Christiane Amanpour’s full interview with Mauser on how the killing of his son propels him to keep on pushing for reform.
The families who lost their children in the Newtown school shooting have been travelling back and forth between Connecticut and Washington D.C. in hopes that there will be a change in guns laws in the United States, according to Connecticut Senator Christopher Murphy.
“Many of them are able to get up in the morning because they believe that this world is going to change as consequence of this tragedy,” Murphy told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday. “I shudder to think what I’m going to tell some of these families if we can’t even get background checks passed.”
Murphy told Amanpour that even if guns laws aren’t changed now in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, he will continue pushing for reform – citing the many attempts it took to pass previous gun reforms in the past.
“It won’t meant the fight is over, but many of these families believe that the only way they can live – on certain days and in certain hours – is to know that the laws are going to change and that other communities won’t have to go through this.”
You can see Amanpour’s full interview with Senator Murphy in the video above.
For years, the U.S. government was researching how to prevent gun violence as an issue of public health and safety.
Then, in 1996, congress voted to severely restrict the program’s funding.
Now President Obama has called for renewed research. Dr. Mark Rosenberg, who ran the research program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says there are four essential questions researchers should ask about gun violence.
“This isn’t complicated esoteric rocket science,” Rosenberg told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.
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